On Father’s Day weekend take the time to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial with Friends of the Smokies and ride in the 3rd annual Gran Fondo Asheville cycling event on Saturday, June 18, 2016Photo by David Huff (1)Friends of the Smokies welcomes cyclist of varying levels to experience the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina by riding the 30, 60 or 100-mile scenic courses. There are timed sections along the routes for folks who would like to compete, but our motto is ‘pedal hard and party harder’ and that is exactly what we want the cyclist to do—enjoy themselves while celebrating 100 years of America’s best idea. Photo by David Huff (4)The ride begins downtown on North Spruce Street and quickly transitions to winding roads in pastoral countryside near Marshall, North Carolina and then along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beginners and avid cyclists alike will find a course to meet their individual goals, whether that’s competing to win or taking it easy and soaking in the views. IMG_4961After riders have completed their chosen course they will cruise into downtown Asheville and be greeted by Friends of the Smokies volunteers, family, and friends at the Twisted Laurel restaurant. Riders will be provided with complimentary beer and food and a great place to hang out as they wait for their comrades to cross the finish line. The finish area will be full of booths ranging from massage therapists, yoga instructors, National Park Service rangers and volunteers and much more.  Photo by David Huff (2)Gran Fondo Asheville benefits Friends of the Smokies to raise money for Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since its founding in 1993, Friends of the Smokies has raised more than $50 million to fund critical projects and programs in America’s most-visited national park. This event features stocked aid stations along the routes where volunteer’s hand out food and water, bike mechanic stations for riders who might be in need, and a raffle and fun prizes for overall and age group winners

The Gran Fondo Asheville has a 500 rider limit to ensure safe riding conditions along the routes. Register today to guarantee a spot at GranFondoAVL.comPhoto by David Huff (3)This event is made possible by Friends of the Smokies presenting sponsors Duke Energy and BorgWarner as well as Twisted Laurel, Webb Investments, Best Buy, Asheville Dental Care, ESPN Asheville and 98.1 the River, Roberts and Stevens, Beverly-Hanks, Fletcher Warehousing, Dixon Hughes Goodman, Insurance Services of Asheville, Equilibar, Publix, and Smoky Mountain Living.