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Scenes from the 25th Annual Iron Mountain Challenge on Saturday. Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star

The threat of inclement weather reduced the duration — and the attendance —  of Saturday’s 25th annual Iron Mountain Challenge bike ride.

Organizer Robin Brothers said the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency recommended that all riders needed to be back “in house” by 2 p.m.

Under partly cloudy skies and a steady wind, only 19 cyclists — down from 67 last year —  set off from the Anniston Aquatic Center to journey on their chosen route.

Brothers said the longest of the three routes — which included Cleburne County —  had been trimmed by closing off the U.S. 431 and Alabama 204 portions so riders could get back sooner. There were two other routes available for riders varying from 50 to 67 miles.

Kenny Bunn, 62, from Anniston said he was cycling in his second Iron Mountain ride to get in shape.

“For my health, trying to get stronger and actually I’m training for the Cheaha Challenge today — that’s why I’m out here,” Bunn said.

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Bunn said that last year, he completed 62 miles in the Cheaha Challenge and this year he hopes to complete all 100 miles of the annual event. On Saturday, Bunn opted for the 50 mile route as he wanted to get back before the weather got bad. The 26th annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & Ultra ride will be on May 20.

Hugh Hickman, 63, said he’d been riding bikes since the early seventies but also enjoys running.

“Between running and riding bikes: riding bikes you can coast when you get tired — go down hills and stuff — running it’s just constant,” Hickman said.

Before the ride Patrick Wigley, owner of Wig’s Wheels, was patrolling the parking lot helping riders with mechanical problems.  Wigley said he is the mechanical support for this year’s ride.

Wigley said the brisk winds can be a challenge for a cyclist to deal with.

“It’s a good thing going out. They’ll have a tailwind and basically be getting pushed. For anybody coming straight back they’re gonna get stood up like a sail — counterintuitive. Nobody likes head winds,” Wigley said.

By noon, Glenn Stephens, 52, from Hoover    was eating his free BBQ lunch in the center with a fellow rider after completing the 50 mile route.

“It was great. The weather was great; the sun was really nice out there; it’s just the wind was picking up a little bit. The wind was the biggest battle of the day,” Stephens said.

“That climb at Bains Gap was a challenge. I heard alot about it; I’ve always wanted to see what it was like. I feel good that we made it over,” Stephens said.

Before the ride started Brothers thanked local law enforcement, Wig’s Wheels, Calhoun County Civil Defense and the Calhoun County EMA for the use of the agency’s radios.

Staff writer and photographer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter: @BWilson_Star

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