Jasper Highlands Classic included national champions

Jasper Highlands Classic included national champions

September 14th, 2017 by Ron Bush in Sports - Outdoors

Heather Nelson from the Nunchuck Bunnies cycling club in Mississippi competes in the Jasper Highlands Classic last month. She was the women's 1-3 time trial winner and finished second in the circuit race and criterium.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Emile Abraham has been succeeding in cycling for a long time, most notably as a rider but also as a team director, a coach, a liaison between teams and sponsors and now an event manager.

A Pan American Games silver medalist in 2007, Abraham is a reigning USA Cycling masters road race national champion. He won the men's 40-44 age group in June in Augusta, Ga.

The 43-year-old Atlanta resident and native of Trinidad and Tobago recently came to Marion County and generated dual success. He was the race director for the inaugural Jasper Highlands Classic, by invitation of developer John "Thunder" Thornton, and it went well with nearly 200 participants in a variety of bicycle and running races Aug. 18-20.

Abraham also won the 35-plus masters criterium that included 17 riders.

Competitors stretch out in the Jasper Highlands Classic men's cat 3 circuit race last month.

Competitors stretch out in the Jasper Highlands Classic...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"Yes, I was able to win one of the events even though I was working and doing all that stuff (involved in race directing) as well," he said this week.

"It was pretty much a successful event, especially for the first time. We got almost 200 people up on the mountain, cycling and running, and I'm looking forward to doing it again, making it bigger and better.

"It's such a beautiful place," Abraham added. "All the athletes who came up were very happy with the Jasper Highlands community and the wonderful scenery."

The development rising above Kimball, Tenn., includes spectacular vistas and a waterfall — and more than 100 miles of trails. Riders came from 14 states to the Jasper Highlands Classic, including Florida, Connecticut and Wisconsin.

Abraham rides for the Atlanta-based North Georgia Cycling Association. Another 2017 U.S. national champion, Ben Renkema, finished third in the 37-man pro 1/2 criterium while working for two of his teammates from a South Carolina club, winner David Winston and runner-up Davis Corey. Winston was the pro class overall winner for the weekend.

Sean Gardner led a 1-2-3 finish for Gateway Harley-Davidson/Trek from Missouri in hill climb, and he and Winston were first and second in the pro time trial. Winston was third in the circuit race behind teammate Johnny Mitchell and winner Willem Kaiser from Gateway, the hill runner-up.

Other men's criterium winners were Jonathan Atkins in masters 50-plus, Eric Nelson in category 3 and Lee Yarbro in cat 4/5. Andrew Crater and Jason Tatum, second and third to Abraham in the criterium, won the 35-plus time trial and the circuit race, respectively. In 50-plus Atkins also won the time trial and was second in the circuit race, with Dirk Pohlmann first in circuit and second in the other two races.

In men's cat 3 Jonathan Guiza won the time trial and the circuit race and James Deane was second in all three events, and Caleb Bennett won the time trial and Seth Ruhling took the circuit win in cat 4/5.

Kaysee Armstrong won the women's 1-3 criterium and circuit race, and Heather Nelson was second in both of those and the time trial winner. Sharon Deane won the women's 4/5 criterium, time trial and road race with Lilly McLeod second in all three.

As for the Jasper Highlands Classic runners, Andrew Burkhart and Laura Wagner were the half marathon overall winners, and John Menzies and Tamra Smith won the 10k.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.