Year Nine of the Fletcher Flyer
By Jason Wilde
Robbie asked me to help out with the 2011 Flyer as Ride Leader and handed me a detailed job description and timeline. The materials were clear and organized but definitely did not prepare me mentally (and physically) for the challenges that awaited. The Ride Leader for that year and the next communicated with rest stop owners, handled all of the rentals (chairs, tables, sound system, truck, etc), was the right hand to the Director on event day, delivered lunch and socks to rest stop volunteers, and hung around to ring cow bells for the final riders to come in, among various other tasks. There could not, however be a more effective way to prepare a future Director; and like Robbie before I didn’t have a clue that that was exactly what was happening. In the latter half of 2011, as I was finishing out my service as club president Robbie popped the question and I accepted.
We/I got a late start to 2012 Flyer planning (particularly in assembling the “committee” leadership) and played a little catch-up but by the end of December and first of January, the stellar and experienced team was assembled. Rich M., Perry D., Craig F., Ralph D., Ben & Beth E. and Stephen J., Gator Tom, and Carrie H., all signed up for another year and hit the ground running handling the critical areas of SAG, Registration, Rest Stops, Route Mapping, Promotion, Parking, and Music/Mood, respectively. The only truly new face on the team in 2012 was Craig K. who agreed to take on the Ride Leader job; and the cycle continues? Craig pushed for creating a Flyer website to promote the ride and offer new ways to thank sponsors by way of web exposure, click-throughs, and tie-in to Facebook. The excitement influenced the budget with a large increase in business sponsorships, but we did keep our heads and ridership expectations conservative in the low 900s.
Title business sponsors Liberty and Cane Creek backed the ride for another year. We added a packet pickup opportunity at Liberty and we utilized a new storage pod and rest stop coordination at the Cane Creek facility. All of which was generously offered on top of the contributions they made to the event.
A highlight for me was the traditional dinner the evening before the ride with Perry D. and the awesome Team in Training riders, coaches, and administration. Perry and I both had the chance to say a few words, mostly about the condition of the course and how to utilize markings, SAG, etc. We were inspired and ready for the completion of the hard work and planning we had invested over the past six months. The Fletcher Flyer was finally only one night’s rest away.
Weather could not have been better on June 3, 2012. It was a little brisk at 5am while opening the gates to the park but by 8am the temperature was in the mid 50s. It was evident to Gator Tom, Perry D., and the Ride Director that we were in for a beautiful Western North Carolina day for cycling. The sun rises from back toward the white house on Burney Mountain in (behind Fletcher park) and quickly dissolves the cool mist of Cane Creek and that is exactly what it did on Flyer day. The 8am group was sent toward the tender care of the Sheriff’s VIP staff at the exit of the park and it was the same for the next groups and final group at 9am.
Rich’s SAG tent becomes the focus (and hangout) as soon as riders leave the park and the HAM radio communications provides the background noise and has quite the calming effect. But as Ride Director, the most calming effect comes when you catch Rich’s eye from across the park and he throws up a thumbs-up sign (all is well). Fortunately, that happened several times during the 9th Fletcher Flyer.
Lunch is catered by Everyday Gourmet and it has become one of the very best components of the Fletcher Flyer. The food is light and delicious and perfect for a hungry cyclist; we and many, many participants have Charlie C. to thank for this selection a few Flyers ago. Lunch is about the time when people notice that the music which is playing through nearby speakers is terrific. Carrie H. hand picks songs each year and the selection is always wonderful, current and sets the mood. It’s difficult to beat good food, good music, blue skies and soft breezes coming together in WNC.
Riders continued to return through the Start/Finish signs with waving and whistling friends and family. Two o’clock became four and four became six and all eyes and ears focused on the activities in and around the SAG tent. Exhausted but happy riders continue to load bicycles onto racks while saying to us “the rest stops are the best” or “can’t wait for next year”. Rich calls out that there are only a handful of riders still out on the course. The remaining crew (some of which rode and are still recovering) breaks down tables, cleans up, picks up trash, and begins disassembling tents. A few hugs are exchanged between riders who just completed their first century.
Rich calls out that the final rider is approaching the park entrance and it is a TnT rider accompanied by coach. Everyone rushes to the Start/Finish with cow bell in hand and rings and shouts as loud as possible. The rider, who has been on the saddle for more than 10 hours crosses the line with a burst of energy and is surrounded by proud TnT family and remaining Flyer crew. With the exception of some final cleanup and handshakes, that is how the ninth annual Fletcher Flyer ended. Rider feedback is sought and improvements are made, and there is every reason to believe that the 10th Fletcher Flyer will be even better!