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ASHEVILLE — The Tour de France is thousands of miles and a few time zones away, with a Norwegian — Thor Hushovd — leading the way, but the world’s most famous bike race tends to bring out the inner cyclist in all of us in America and in Asheville.
Cycling clubs hope that burning-rubber-smell-in-the-air will help attract more cyclists and more spectators to the mountains for several biking events, including the French Broad Cycling Classic, a mini, three-stage bicycle tour, that runs July 15-17 in Asheville, along with the Grizzly Metric Century on Friday, and the Hot Doggett 100 on Saturday.
“The Tour de France helps with overall awareness of bicycle racing,” Richard Dunn, an Asheville cycling coach, said of the Tour de France, which began Saturday and ends July 24. “The general public is more aware. It’s hard not to know that the Tour de France is going on.”
The French Broad Cycling Classic, hosted by the Asheville Bicycle Racing Club since 1997, is the “must-do” ride in the Southeast, Dunn says.
“It’s a great race, and people love to come up to the mountains in the summer,” said Dunn, the race director. “It also has an economic impact. Most riders are not local. All those cyclists have to find a place to sleep, to eat, buy gas. They come from a seven-state radius around North Carolina.”
They also bring spectators from near and far who want to get a taste of the Tour de France, but at a bargain price.
Boyd Johnson, 32, a professional cyclist who lives in Greenville, S.C., will be competing in the FBCC for his fourth time next weekend. Last year, Johnson, owner of Boyd Cycling, was the overall winner of the three-day race and won the road race.
“It’s a race that incorporates all three disciplines — time trial, a hilly road race and a criterium that favors sprinters — so to win, you have to be able to excel in all three,” said Johnson, who rides for Team Global Bike, which raises money to provide bikes for health care workers in developing nations.
“Asheville is a great region for cycling. Racers like hard terrain, and with the terrain being as hard as it
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