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SUNDAY, JUNE 10, 2007
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Night riding ban halts cyclists’ record try

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com · 340-2395

A Decatur cyclist’s quest to enter the record books ended unsuccessfully Saturday.

A park ranger essentially halted the attempt to ride the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway uninterrupted when he told a four-man relay team they couldn’t cycle at night.

It was confusing and frustrating news to Rodney Darby of Decatur, who spent about nine months preparing for the 469-mile trek.

He said he researched the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Web site for rules, and it gave details about the equipment that riders needed to pedal the parkway at night.

“So the implication is you can ride at night,” he said.

The relay team — which consisted of Darby, older brother Dan Darby, son Anthony Darby and Anthony’s friend Ryan Dye — started at 10:32 a.m.

Their plan was for one rider to bike at a time, mostly in 30-minute intervals, while an official vehicle followed closely behind and two support trucks shuttled the next riders ahead of the pack.

They were attempting to break a seven-year-old record of 29 hours and 36 minutes. Successful completion would have put them in the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association record books.

Before encountering the park rangers, Darby figured the biggest obstacle would be pedaling the steep Appalachians. The hills combine for a total of 48,600 feet. That’s more than 11/2 times the height of Mount Everest.

First encounter

During the day, a park ranger pulled the group over and asked if they were involved in some type of event.

If it was an event, the ranger said, they would need a permit, according to Darby. He said this was also something the Internet didn’t point out.

When the ranger learned they had only four riders and only one on the road at a time, he let them continue. His one condition was that they couldn’t use the chase vehicle in the day because it would hold traffic back. At night, however, when few cars travel the parkway, they could use the chase car.

“About an hour later, another park ranger pulled us over and asked us exactly the same questions about being organized, but he said you will not ride after night,” Darby said. “So he stopped it.”

The group was planning to ride till dark, then stop to eat and decide if they would start again and finish the race for pride, or come straight home. UMCA won’t sanction a relay that stops overnight, Darby said.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “But working the frustrations out has made me ride harder now.

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