Georgia teen claims victory in annual Roan Groan cycling race
Published 9:55 am Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Roughly 285 cyclists hit the road Saturday for the 35th annual Roan Groan Road Race, a race that starts at the Cat Island Park in downtown Elizabethton and ends at the top of Roan Mountain at Carvers Gap.
After a grueling 80-mile journey to the finish line, 17-year-old Ian Garrison of Decatur, Ga., zipped to a first place finish in the Pro 1/ 2 category with an unofficial time of 3:35:50, beating Nolan Tankersley of Erwin by just three seconds.
With this just being Garrison’s second year competing in the Roan Groan, he was very happy with his big finish, he said.
“It feels awesome,” Garrison, who races for the Hincapie Cycling team said. “I am just 17, and last year, I was struggling with the climb. So, going from the back of the pack last year to the front this year is a pretty awesome feeling.”
At the Pro 1/ 2 level, this year’s race was longer than the traditional 55 miles, after the organizers decided to add 25 more miles to the already tough race.
And Garrison said he could definitely feel the extended distance. The first place finisher gained ground on his competition during an early-race break away and was able to keep a good pace thereafter, he said.
“My goal was actually to just stay in the field this year and conserve as much as possible,” he said. “I got up there in that break away and I honestly didn’t think we would be able to hold it. But it just helped having strong teammates in that group with me.”
Tankersley, who races for the Finish Strong Elite Cycling team, wasn’t disappointed with his second place finish, he said. The former Milligan cyclist felt that this year’s Roan Groan was tougher than years past.
“It was definitely much, much harder,” he said. “With the extra 20 miles this year, that was a game changer. A lot of us knew coming in that it was going to be about nutrition. We had a pretty good break about five miles in, and, surprisingly, it stuck.”
In the break with Tankersley was Finish Strong teammate Johnny Mitchell. According to Tankersley, Mitchell played a crucial role in his top finish.
“Coming into about 10 miles from the bottom of the climb, Johnny, was like, ‘Just set in. If you need a bottle I will give you my bottle. I will just do the work for you. Just set in so you will feel fresh for the climb,’ ” Tankersley said about how Mitchell helped him. “It was really good for me. It did a lot for me during the bottom of the climb.”
A little after the start of the climb, Tankersley said it was just him and Garrison for a lot of the curvy ascent up Highway 143 through the Roan Mountain State Park.
In the Elite Masters 35+ category, which was a 55 mile race, Nathaniel Ward (2:50:57) took first place, with his teammate Joseph Carpisassi (2:53:09) coming in behind him.
Taking first in the 55-mile Cat 3 race, William Harrison (3:04:35) took first. Neil Ostenfeld (3:07:03) came in second.
Albert Harrison (1:42:02) placed first in the 30-mile Cat 4 race, with Fausto Crapiz (1:45:14) taking second place.
Brent Basham came out on top in the Cat 5, with Cameron Brunce coming in second.
In the Master 40+ Clinton March took first. James Barker was first in the Master 50+, and Thomas Ratajczak placed first in the Master 60+.
In the Women Pro race, Sarah Matchett took first with a time of 1:55:40.