Brent and Jamie’s awesome event
This weekend is the Bookwalter Binge- a gran fondo presented by current professional rider Brent Bookwalter, and ex pro Jamie, (who is also his partner.) The route around Asheville looks pretty sick, check it out here. We caught up with them to find out more about their event:
What Inspired you to start the Binge?
Jamie: We started the Bookwalter Binge because we wanted a party for a good cause with good people. We had had some great experiences other gran fondos and saw how gran fondos shared the enjoyment of riding, a taste of competition, with a great sense of community, and thought- why doesn’t Asheville have one of these? We also wanted to make sure ours supported a charity we believed in. Our benefiting charity, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, preserves and stewards land- it’s a cause everyone can get behind.
Brent: It was Jamie’s idea initially, or at least it was her who was responsible with taking it forward from an idea to a reality. After a tough season, I’m always cautious to not overcommit my time and energy during the extremely short off season. I was skeptical we could pull it off with our already limited time, but Jamie convinced me we could do it and we started from scratch to make it happen.
How do you two manage this between full time racing and Jamie on a PHD course?
Brent: My year is packed with racing, training, traveling and trying to be my best. Some people would say that my career would be better served with sole focus on the task at hand, but for me, cycling and racing is more than just a performance or a race or being fit and strong, it’s also about the people we meet and experiences we share and the personal team that i’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded by and has helped propel me to what i’ve been fortunate enough to achieve. The Binge is an extension and expansion of this feeling and broader sense of what I do as a professional cyclist. The Binge connects us to an interesting and passionate group of people and gives our sometimes nomadic lives a deeper sense of community. The Binge helps remind me why I started riding and racing in the first place.
Jamie: We began the Binge after I stopped racing in 2013. That first year, I did almost everything- route planning, event supervision,sponsor procurement and fulfilment, marketing, volunteer management, permitting, etc. It was my first year after I stopped racing and I remember thinking “can’t be worse than planning a wedding.” HAHA. Try a wedding on wheels. I realized pretty quickly that event planning was not my favorite thing to do. Every year we’ve been able to raise a little more sponsorship dollars and boost participant numbers so I’ve been able to give an increasing amount of the management aspects over to our current race and safety director team who are event pros. I’m still responsible for the sponsorship procurement, so my brain feels really scattered in November and December when I’m making the sponsor asks while juggling my PhD program in ecology at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, but I make myself lists and schedules for each day to organize myself.
What are you favourite parts, and contrasting, what are the hardest parts of the event?
Brent: One of my favorites is definitely how we salvaged the first year from a snow day cancellation to a one of a kind party. Having all of our friends and volunteers stand by us and make the most of the situation went a long way to cement the spirit of fun and community that we wanted the Binge to stand for and still lives on today. Many people have joked that they want that version of the Binge back so they can get to the fun part of the day, beers, stories and hanging out without having to haul their butts over all those Appalachian mountains.
Jamie: My favoUrite (hahah) part of the Binge is the fact is that we get to see our friends and family and community all in one place, for a good cause. We don’t get to spend as much time as we would like to with “our people,” so it’s wonderful to have a gathering of community and family every year. My least favorite thing about the Binge involves worrying about the one thing we cannot control, but can only make contingency plans- the WEATHER.
Lastly, if someone can’t attend, is there any other way to get involved?
Jamie: If people can’t ride our event, we would love volunteers- volunteers literally make this event happen. If people can’t volunteer, we would love donations of any amount to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. If donating isn’t in the cards, just sharing and following our social media channels makes a difference to our sponsors, who also make this event happen!
Check out all the details at BookwalterBinge.com
All images copyright MotoPhotoMe.com.