Wingate University hosted hundreds of cyclists last Wednesday as they pedaled into the town of Wingate, the fourth stop on the Cycle North Carolina “Mountains to the Coast” ride.
After setting up camp Wednesday afternoon on the university's grassy fields, many cyclists hopped shuttles bound for downtown Monroe to check out shops, restaurants and a special Music on Main concert featuring Billy Scott and the Prophets. Others chose to stay on campus to relax and watch a movie shown by the university.
Introducing the cyclists to small towns such as Monroe and Wingate is one of the ride's main goals, according to event director Ragan Williams.
“We like to offer the small communities an economic impact,” said Williams. “Our biggest sponsor is the (N.C.) Division of Tourism, so one of our main goals is to hit the smaller communities and give them some good tourism coverage.”
The event is organized by North Carolina Amateur Sports, a nonprofit. Adult riders paid up to $215 for the weeklong ride, less for shorter stints.
Student athletes served food to the cyclists and helped locate their bags amongst a sea of luggage. The event proved fun not just for the cyclists, but for all students involved, according to Steve Poston, the university's vice president and athletic director
“We're excited about having them here,” Poston said. “It's something that we're very pleased to host in Wingate. We want to be sure we're good hosts and that they leave with a good impression of Wingate.”
For cyclist Phil Cook, the university's fields provided a nice contrast to the infield of Lowes Motor Speedway in Concord, where the cyclists stayed the night before.
“It's been good. I've really enjoyed being in the small towns,” said Cook, who left his home in Moscow, Idaho, to join the ride. “Camping on the infield surrounded by almost 200,000 empty seats was kind of weird. We got around Charlotte and we're back into the country, so that's nice.”
The event is not timed. It encourages cyclists to enjoy the landscape as they travel at their own pace. The weeklong ride began Sept. 27 in Black Mountain and ended Saturday in the coastal town of Oak Island. Overnight stops included Morganton, Lincolnton, Laurel Hill and White Lake.
Daniel Hartis writes about Monroe and central and eastern Union County.