Bad weather no deterrent for bicyclists
By Steve Huffman
It was a tad chilly for the morning races, but by the time the afternoon events kicked off, Sunday’s Food Lion/City Park Criterium couldn’t have been a lot better.
The races, held on an almost-mile-long course that circled Salisbury’s City Park, were part of the weekend’s Out Like a Lion Race Weekend, which included Saturday races in Albemarle.
On Saturday, racers contended with downpours and hail. On Sunday, Mother Nature smiled on the bikers, blessing them with sunshine and soft breezes.
“This is such a well organized event, we felt obligated to come support local cycling,” said Tommie Brock, coach of Team Pfeiffer Cycling, the biking team from Pfeiffer University.
Brock said it took more for his team to participate in Sunday’s event than to simply jump in their cars and drive up from nearby Meisenheimer.
On Saturday, Team Pfeiffer participated in bike races in Maryland sponsored by the University of Maryland. They were to have raced there again Sunday, but those events were canceled.
So Brock asked team members if they were interested in driving back to race in Salisbury. They were.
“We came back late Saturday to race today,” Brock said.
His team fared well on Sunday, Brock said, claiming a number of top 10 finishes.
“They have races for everyone,” Brock said. “It’s a very tough course, we wanted to come out and do battle.”
Upwards of 300 bikers participated, included teams from Lees-McRae College and Virginia Tech.
Alan Brookshire drove Sunday from Asheville to participate in a race for men 35 and over.
“It’s one of more popular criteriums in this part of the state,” Brookshire said of the Salisbury event.
He said he was pleased with his performance, but admitted to having a more keen interest in the Juniors 10-14 race that was held in early afternoon.
Brookshire’s sons, Grayson, 12, and Colton, a few months shy of his 10th birthday, rode in that race.
Brookshire said he was especially interested in seeing how Colton managed, since he’s just cutting his teeth on organized racing.
“I’m more nervous about him than I was about myself,” Brookshire said.
He hollered loud and long whenever Colton ó outfitted in an orange racing uniform ó circled past the start/finish line where most of the crowd for Sunday’s races gathered.
Another novice participant in that Junior race was 11-year-old Andrew Canon. Sunday marked the first time that Andrew had raced in an organized competition. He just got his bikeó a Fuji Newest 3.0 ó for Christmas.
“I’m not that nervous,” Andrew said as he waited to ride.
His father, Mack, president of the North Carolina/South Carolina Cycling Association, said he was sure his son would do well.
“He’s got his dad pulling for him,” Canon said. “He’ll do OK.”
He said the Salisbury race is among the best, and said Charlie Brown, the event’s organizer, deserves the lion’s share of the credit.
“Charlie and his whole crew, they do a super job,” Canon said. “They support cycling extremely well.”
Food Lion was the primary sponsor of Sunday’s event, the Salisbury-based grocery store chain donating $4,000 to the races. Chris Blumenthal, a Food Lion spokesman, said some of that money went to hold the races and some went to the Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross, the primary beneficiary of the criterium.
A bucket was also placed at a refreshment tent alongside the race course and donations accepted to help the families of Victor Isler and Justin Monroe, two Salisbury firefighters killed in a March 7 blaze.
“Bikers like the venue,” Blumenthal said of Sunday’s races. “I’m a cyclist and it’s kind of cool to just sit back and watch ’em go past.”
Brown, the organizer, was one of several Salisbury riders who fared well in Sunday’s competitions. Brown won the Masters 35-plus race and three of his teammates ó Ryan Jenkins, John Patterson and Bret Busby ó finished among the top six racers in the event.
Brown, Jenkins, Patterson and Busby are all either Salisbury residents or natives of Salisbury. They all ride for the Carolina Masters team.
Among local junior riders, Emily Shields and Chris Holmes managed well, finishing third and fifth, respectively, in their individual races.
Brown noted that a year ago, the weather was as perfect for the criterium as it was Sunday.
“It doesn’t get any better,” Brown said of conditions. “We were lucky last year and we were lucky again this year.”
Ten youngsters who turned out for a bike rodeo held as part of the criterium were lucky, as well. The Rowan County Health Department donated 10 helmets that were given to needy children at Sunday’s event.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.