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Cyclists deal with near record heat during iconic bike race

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Nearly 900 cyclists braved the heat for the 43rd annual Assault on Mount Mitchell. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Nearly 900 cyclists braved the heat for the 43rd annual Assault on Mount Mitchell.

The finish line was a happy place.

It was the first Assault on Mount Mitchell for Matt Moore, of Canada. When asked what the hardest part of the 102.7-mile race was, Moore replied, "Probably that last stretch, wondering which corner is this going to end on."

Participants also included NASCAR drivers Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth and former professional cyclist George Hincapie.

"I trained so hard for this last year, then this year I didn't really put the time in and paid the consequences," McMurray said. "I had a really good time. It's a beautiful ride, and it's a lot of fun just to get outside."

While Moore said the heat wasn't too bad, McMurray said he felt it.

"It was warm. Fortunately, as you get higher, it does cool down a little bit. The overcast helps quite a bit. But, yeah, it was pretty hot," he said.

Fellow cyclist Daniel Thode, of Sumter, South Carolina, agreed.

"It was a little bit harder. For me, I kind of like the heat,. But if it was any warmer, it would have been a lot harder. I was drinking extra today," Thode admitted.

Race spokesperson Katie Beliles said at least 200 bikers did not complete the Assault on Mount Mitchell -- many dropping out because of overheating.

But Beliles said the fastest rider, Corey Davis, of Greenville, finished the race in five hours and nine minutes, 12 minutes faster than the top finisher last year.

"After about 70 miles in, it's tough," Thode said, reflecting on the race. "You're tired and pushing all you got. And the last 30 miles, you're worn out."

While these cyclists celebrated, Chelsea Stendig and daughter Emma waited for Chelsea's husband Nils to cross the finish line.

"The best thing is watching him cross that finish line, knowing he's worked really hard and it's paid off," Stendig said.

She said Nils has done several bike races and iron man competitions.