Bicycling's hub for a day
Click here to view a photo slideshow of Saturday's festivities
Sharon Tatum traveled from her home in Walkertown to downtown High Point Saturday to attend her first professional bicycling race.
As she sat on a bench in Mendenhall Transportation Terminal taking in the spectacle that had become the center of the city, she spoke a line for many other first-time fans: “I didn’t know there were this many bikers in the world.”
Tatum, who came from neighboring Forsyth County with her family to watch her great-grandson C.J. ride in the children’s race, was among locals and out-of-town visitors who streamed into downtown for the fourth annual High Point Cycling Classic. Rides and races took place throughout the day, from the casual trip on the 1.35-mile course in a morning benefit for the United Way of Greater High Point to the ferocious sprints by the best racers in the country in a national competition that wrapped up the event in the evening.
The only uncontrollable ingredient that paused the festivities was a mid-afternoon thunderstorm that brought torrents of rainfall to the heart of High Point. But the skies cleared by later in the afternoon. By the time the professional women left the starting line at 4:50 p.m. for their national championship race, Mendenhall Transportation Terminal was bracketed with fans cheering as the racers sprinted along Commerce Street.
Though the High Point Cycling Classic has taken place previously, this year marked the first time the city hosted the USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championships. The races, in which professional riders top out at speeds of 45 mph, brought top men and women cyclists to the city.
First-time bicycle race observer Kelly Johnson of High Point brought her son, Riley, a student at Northwood Elementary School, to circle the course in the children’s race. Boys and girls from 3 to 12 years old joined professional riders for one lap on the course.
Johnson said that her son was excited about having a chance to meet top cyclists and ride on a championship course.
“I think it’s great for the city,” she told The High Point Enterprise.
Deborah Rosenzweig traveled from her Wake County home in Cary to High Point Saturday to see her first professional cycling race. Her husband, Adam, is a devoted fan of bicycle racing.
“You see the tour on TV — it’s fun to see it in person,” she said.
Around lunchtime Saturday, what could best be called organized chaos ensued when dozens of boys and girls lined up at the starting line for the children’s race. Smiling parents took pictures or filmed their children with iPads as they pulled away from the line in front of the International Home Furnishings Center.
The friendly chaos resumed as the boys and girls finished the race at the same spot. Race organizers rushed to present bags of treats to the children as mothers and fathers scrambled to congratulate their beaming children.
And if you were downtown Saturday and saw men and women of all ages sporting bright orange T-shirts, you saw volunteers who gave hours of their time to help pull off the High Point Cycling Classic. Upwards of 250 volunteers helped during the past four days in allowing the event to take place in High Point.
The excitement of professional bicycle racing will return next summer, as High Point will host the 2014 Criterium National Championships during next year’s Cycling Classic.
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Heard at the High Point Cycling Classic
Longtime local businessman and civic leader David Miller enjoyed a leisurely ride Saturday morning on the 1.35-mile course used later in the day for the 2013 USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championships. But it made Miller, a cycling enthusiast, appreciate what professional riders accomplish.
“You think about a group of 50 riders hitting corners just wide open.”
Miller was among the riders who pedaled laps in the Ride United benefit for the United Way of Greater High Point. United Way organizers say at least $10,000 had been raised as of Saturday.
Desiree Davis stood along the edge of the race course with her daughters, Imari and Khalayah. It was their second straight trip to the High Point Cycling Classic.
“It’s something to do — it gives something for the community to come out.”
German Castellanos of High Point brought his wife and children to the races.
“I love it, just to revitalize the downtown,” said the native of Brazil whose wife is from Chile. “Any excuse to be outside and have fun.”
Ashley Travieso of Athens, Ga., came to High Point to watch her husband, Frank, race. She was impressed with the city’s handling of the event.
“I put on bike races myself.”
Tracy Johnson drove down from Virginia Beach, Va., to watch her husband, Keith, compete in the top level of the master’s class. He’s ridden competitively for 25 years.
“It’s great. High Point does a good job, especially with the big-screen TVs so you can watch the whole race.”