The 26th annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & ULTRA in May had a record-breaking 879 participants from 30 states and 13 countries descending on the campus for this year’s event, with 70 percent of riders staying at least one night and 90 percent of riders living outside Calhoun County. Of those, female ridership more than doubled from the usual 10 percent to 23 percent. The Cruise also saw a significant boost with a 47 percent increase in participation. Riders touted the volunteers, giving special props to rest-stop volunteers and marshals on the roads. This year’s event was so successful that 98.54 percent of riders said they would recommend the event to others. Not including spending at Effina’s Cooter’s and Jacksonville Walmart, the event pumped about $548,553 into the local economy.
Cycling enthusiasts can look forward to coming back next year, as Ride Director Brooke Nicholls Nelson said the UCI Gran Fondo Worlds qualifier will return to JSU and the city of Jacksonville in 2019.