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MICRO — This small town was transformed Thursday to resemble a village along the Tour de France route as nearly 1,000 cyclists made a pit stop at the Micro Volunteer Fire Department.
Participants in the 21st annual North Carolina Mountains to Coast Ride paused to refuel on energy bars, fresh fruit, bottled water, Gatorade and soft drinks along with paying visits to portable toilets.
The cyclists, hailing from places all over the world, left Clayton between 5 and 7:30 a.m. Thursday. The Mountains to Coast Ride began Sept. 29 in Blowing Rock. Other stops along the route included Hickory, Spencer and Siler City.
The group was expected to stop in Greenville on Thursday evening followed by a stop in New Bern. Cyclists were slated to arrive in Atlantic Beach over the weekend to complete the journey. Participants log more than 500 miles in the weeklong ride.
The first rider to arrive at Micro on Thursday was Dennis Ramsey of Chesapeake, Virginia, who pulled into the fire department parking lot around 7 a.m.
“Rest stop No. 1 is always the best stop of the day,” said Ramsey, who’s made the cross-North Carolina ride twice before.“I love northeast North Carolina vinegar-based barbecue so this week I’m here for the barbecue and some fresh North Carolina seafood.”
The trip from Clayton was 20.5 miles with the next leg of the journey to the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace in Fremont at 16.2 miles followed by the segment to Greenville.
Mike Anderson, one of six riders on the tour whose job it was to ride ahead of the others and take care of riders who ran into problems like flat tires or mechanical issues, said cyclists had many reasons for making the journey.
“Some are on vacation and some just love the open road and getting away from cities where there is less traffic and beautiful scenery,” said Anderson.
Anderson said he had stopped at dawn Thursday to take some photos of a cotton field.
According to Anderson, riders ranged from age 6 to 82 with an average age of 61.
“It was a smooth ride this morning from Clayton, I liked it,” said Larry Call of Middletown, Maryland. “I enjoyed the view.”
Anderson said routes and logistics for the trip are usually worked out thoroughly in February and most rides follow back roads.
“Also, we could not do this without the law enforcement personnel that accompany us,” said Anderson. “They are fantastic.”
Shortly after 9 a.m., an announcement came over a loudspeaker in the station saying “We’ve got some bad news, we just found out B’s Barbecue in Greenville is closed all this week,” followed by a collective groan from a group gathered around the bottled water area.
“That’s it,” a rider joked. “I’m going home.”
“This is a lot of work,” Anderson said, “but it is fun.”