Rodney Darby, cyclist on right, leads his team over mountains and around law enforcement obstacles to set a record for pedaling the entire 469-mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Other cyclists are Todd Watts, Anthony Darby and Ryan Dye.
Decatur cyclist's team breaks Blue Ridge record
By Paul Huggins
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A brush with law enforcement forced Rodney Darby to abandon his team's quest to set a cycling record on the Blue Ridge Parkway in June.
But if climbing 48,600 feet of Appalachian Mountain roads wasn't enough to deter him, a rule on a flat piece of paper wouldn't either.
The Decatur cyclist reassembled his team of four riders and found a way around the law with help from the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association.
The June attempt to ride the entire 469-mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway uninterrupted ended when a park ranger told Darby they couldn't cycle at night.
They were attempting to break a seven-year-old record of 29 hours and 36 minutes. Successful completion would have put them in the UMCA record books.
Darby's team, which also included his older brother Dan Darby, son Anthony Darby and Anthony's friend Ryan Dye, spent months planning and training for the record.
They returned home depressed, Darby said, but after a few days they consulted with Drew Clark, UMCA records chair, and learned they could use another highway at night and count those miles toward time on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
They had to get a new team member (Todd Watts) to replace Darby's brother and new support crews, but by Aug. 25, they were ready for a second try. Supporting the effort from two vehicles were Jackie Whitaker, Josh Burton and Matt Pinkston.
To minimize the night riding on the parkway, the team exited onto North Carolina 221 at Blowing Rock, an hour before nightfall. After a night of 10-mile shifts, the team re-entered the Blue Ridge Parkway at Adney Gap a few hours before sunrise.
"The nighttime brought a few showers that helped to keep us cool, animals of all sorts that kept us alert and a single policeman that wanted to know what we were up to," Darby said. "Fortunately, the policeman was understanding and let us proceed."
At exactly 12 seconds past noon Aug. 27, the four riders crossed finish line for an overall time of 27 hours, 30 minutes and 12 seconds, beating the old record by more than two hours.
"Aside from a crew member throwing up (from motion sickness) in the follow vehicle at night and not having the opportunity to clean it up until after the ride, nothing particularly unusual occurred," Darby said. "Amazingly, we had no bicycle or car problems throughout."
Overcoming the logistics of planning the ride and cycling unknown territory on U.S. 221 was the hardest part, he said. The best part was cycling at night with the occasional deer, turkey, snakes, raccoons and other curious critters, as well as rushing down the long hills after grueling, long uphill climbs.
Darby said the team has redeemed itself.
Earlier this week, Clark, the UMCA records chairman, certified the team's record.
"Very commendable effort in overcoming obstacles," Clark said.
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