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The Storming of Thunder Ridge Q&A with Race Director Paula Dahl

Paula Dahl is the director of Storming of Thunder Ridge, and a cyclist that is well known around the Central Virginia Cycling community. She rides her bike over 10,000 miles each year. Paula has worked at the YMCA of Central VA since 1994 and she brought the idea of a charity bicycle ride to the Y back in 2010.

Paula Dahl

What is Storming of Thunder Ridge?

The Storming of Thunder Ridge (SOTR-JBMR) has been a cycling event in Lynchburg since the mid-80s, benefitting various non-profits like The Lung Association, The Heart Association, LIVESTRONG, and since 2010, the YMCA of Central Virginia. In 2022, the ride officially became, The Storming of Thunder Ridge – The John Bell Memorial Ride. The YMCA decided to rename the ride in memory of John Bell, a skilled cardiothoracic surgeon who was a husband, father, avid cyclist and who was very instrumental in organizing this ride in the years preceding 2010. John Tragically lost his life on May 26, 2009 on his bicycle, but his legacy lives on through SOTR-JBMR.

Where is the course and what will you see on the ride?

SOTR-JBMR offers riders the chance to ride their bicycles on sweet, rural, low-traffic, scenic and smooth roads in Lynchburg, Bedford County and Campbell County. You will have well-stocked rest stops every 10-20 miles and SAG (supply and gear) drivers looking out for you if you encounter a mechanical issue or you have lost your strength to pedal. Three of the routes will travel 22 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway and climb the longest climb on the parkway in VA – Thunder Ridge (12.6 miles, 3600’ elevation gain) – a climber’s paradise! The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as one of the most scenic roads in America. 

What are the different races/mileage routes?

There is a route for everyone!

  • The 27 miler is a beautiful out and back course that travels to Cifax – great for riders that want to ride with their families, or someone that doesn’t want to spend all day in the saddle.
  • The 45 miler is a super-fun and hilly route looping through Curtis – a small little community with a running stream along the 5-mile stretch – it runs below the Blue Ridge Parkway. 
  • The 48 miler allows the rider to climb Thunder Ridge without riding 75 miles – it has a remote start/finish in Sedalia and travels along the Blue Ridge Parkway and comes back through Curtis – a perfect route for those who want the climbing experience without the mega-miles. 
  • The 75 miler is a loop that gets the rider onto the Blue Parkway and back to the YMCA in the most direct route. There is lots of climbing with some really sweet miles. 
  • The 100 miler is a longer loop that will stay with the 75 miler until mile 62, then it will branch off to do some more climbing in Goode and Evington. This route boasts over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. 

All routes start and finish at the Jamerson YMCA except the 48-miler route – the Mountain Loop, which starts and stops at the Sedalia Center. Read more about the different routes here.

Where should riders stay?

Our Host Hotel this year is the fabulous, Hilton Garden Inn in LYH – for more information about special rates, please click on:  Accommodations | YMCA of Central Virginia ( – we have a special rate of $124 plus tax up through April 17, 2024 (CODE 90G)

For the more adventurous, our ride offers indoor and outdoor camping. On Saturday, outdoor campers can set up for the weekend, and indoor campers can claim their spot inside any time after 4 PM.

Will there be training rides in LYH?

Free training rides commence in early Spring, Sundays at 2PM. We roll from the Monkey Joes Parking Lot – 1190 Perrowville Rd Forest VA 2455. We will start out with about 20-25 miles and grow each week. One week we will actually go up on the Blue Ridge Parkway for some climbing. Check out our Facebook page for details.

Sign up for The Storming of Thunder Ridge now! See you May 19, 2024!

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