Need for speed
Here’s a glimpse of the excitement you’ll find on roadways in downtown High Point next Saturday.
Men and women on bicycles wearing sleek spandex will push speeds approaching 45 mph as they jostle against each other through tight turns, trying to avoid crashing themselves and their expensive bikes onto the pavement or into hay bales surrounding utility poles.
Thousands of screaming fans will line a 1.35-mile track through the High Point Market showroom district as they pull for their favorite racers as they sprint ferociously to the finish line. All the excitement will flash across a pair of 16-by-9-foot Jumbotron video displays set up downtown for the competition.
This week, High Point will become the hub in the national wheel of spokes for the sport of bicycle racing during the fourth annual High Point Cycling Classic. But this year’s event, which starts Thursday and concludes next Sunday, includes a first for the city.
The highlight of the four-day event will happen Saturday, when the USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championships for men and women take place on a course set up downtown. The races begin at 4:50 and continue through about 9 p.m.
Dr. Chip Duckett, a cycling enthusiast and organizer of the event, said a newcomer to the sport of bicycle racing will be astonished by the skill of the racers.
“They will be amazed at the speed they are seeing, how close these racers are together,” said Duckett, a local physician. “They are on these 15-pound bikes — their spandex and helmet are all their protection.”
As the racers rush by fans standing at the fence line of the course, the force of the wind generated from their movement “will literally blow your hair up,” Duckett said.
The racers will come by a fan stationed along the course on average about every 2 minutes, Duckett said. The start and finish line for the races will be at the Mendehnall Transportation Terminal between Showplace and the International Home Furnishings Center.
The racers will at times pack together tightly on the course curving through downtown streets. At other times the racers will string out in a line.
“You’ll see racers or teams taking attacks where they try to get distance between them and the field,” Duckett said.
The race will be broadcast on the Jumbotron screens so fans can see the action, Duckett said.
“It’s like going to a NASCAR race — you see it away from you and you see it in front of you. And it’s something many people haven’t seen before,” he said.
But what if you’re not an intense fan of bicycle racing?
The High Point Cycling Classic offers opportunities for entertainment, from outdoor concerts downtown to a Kids Zone for children and families.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, Mendenhall Transportation Terminal will buzz with music. From 6:30-11 p.m. Friday, the Mipso Trio Band out of Chapel Hill will perform their unique take on bluegrass. From 8:30-11 p.m. Saturday, Sol Fusion out of Charlotte will entertain crowds with its high-energy party music.
Children will have a chance to ride casually with professional cyclists and have fun in the Kids Zone on Saturday.
And the High Point Cycling Classic will give local residents and visitors a chance to see what may become a future staple of High Point. Several local groups collaborated to set up a remodeled sea-can container that will be on display downtown. The sea-can, which cost $150,000 to upfit, will be on display from Thursday through July 30.
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Schedule of events
• Vintage bike gathering at High Point Plaza Hotel, 3-5 p.m.
• Free movie, “Breaking Away” at High Point Theater, 7:30 p.m.
• Art/Bike Exhibit at Theater Art Galleries, 7-9 p.m.
• Vintage bike show in High Point Plaza Hotel Ballroom, 3-8 p.m.
• Contemporary hand-built bike exhibit at Showplace Atrium, 3-8 p.m.
• “The Bicycle: Art Meets Form” at High Point Theatre, 1-5 p.m.
• Art/Bike exhibit at Theater Art Galleries, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.
• Free movie, “American Flyer” at High Point Theater, 7:30 p.m.
• Mipso Trio Band performance at Mendenhall Transportation Terminal, 6:30-11 p.m.
• RideUnited 2013 Charity Bike Ride on the course downtown, 8-11 a.m.
• Free children’s movie, “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” at High Point Theater, 9 a.m.
• Kids bike races with the pros on the course downtown, 11:30 a.m.-Noon
• Kid Zone children’s activities downtown, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
• “The Bicycle: Art Meets Form” at High Point Theater, 1-5 p.m.
• Art/Bike exhibit at Theater Art Gallery, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
• National Masters Races downtown, 12:30-4:30 p.m.
• USAC Women’s Professional Criterium National Championships - 4:50 p.m.
• USAC Men’s Professional Criterium National Championships - 6:40 p.m.
• Sol Fusion performance at Mendenhall Transportation Terminal, 8:30-11 p.m.
• Bike swap meet at Showplace parking lot, 8 a.m.-Noon
• Vintage bike show, award-winning bikes, at High Point Plaza Hotel, 8 a.m.-Noon
• Contemporary hand-built bike exhibit at Showplace Atrium, 8 a.m.-Noon
• Art/Bike exhibit at Theater Art Gallery, 8 a.m.-Noon
For more information, check the website http://hpcyclingclassic.com/