‘NASCAR on two wheels’ coming back to town Thursday
By Steve Huffman
Some folks might disagree, but Neal Boyd said bike racing is similar to motor sports.
“It’s like NASCAR on two wheels,” he said. “There’s lots of speed, lots of color.”
Lots of speeding, colorful bikers will be coming to Rowan County Thursday evening as the fourth annual Downtown Salisbury Criterion is staged along the city’s streets.
The event is part of the eighth annual Giordana Crossroads Classic, a nine-stage criterium held over 10 days. Each stage is held in a different city.
The Salisbury event is also referred to as “The Race to Protect Children.” Proceeds from the event ó which is sponsored by F&M Bank and Team Chevrolet ó go to Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, a nonprofit organization.
Boyd, organizer of the Crossroads Classic, said the Salisbury leg is one of the event’s best. Racing kicks off at 6:15 p.m. and includes four events, the final race being the pro event at 8:45 p.m.
This year, Salisbury offers a new, more exciting figure-eight course that measures almost a mile.
The highlight of that route is the 300 block of North Main Street where racers will be traveling both north and south, opposing lanes of travel separated by hip-high fencing.
Spectators will be allowed to walk almost into the middle of the racing, protected by the fencing as bikers whip past only a few feet away.
It promises to be a lot of fun.
“The course is great,” Boyd said. “Salisbury has always been a wonderful town to work with and this new course will make things even better.”
About 300 racers are expected for the four events.
Boyd said the one thing organizers are hoping for this year is a larger turnout of spectators.
The fans who do attend are great, he said, but the blocks through which riders race are lined more by businesses that close early in the evening than by restaurants that might stay open for the entire event.
Boyd said that in Statesville, the criterium route is lined by restaurants and spectator turnout is huge.
“It’s more a business area there in Salisbury where we race,” Boyd said. “There’s not a lot of people there in the evening. We’re trying to bring in more vendors this year and turn things around.”
Charlie Brown is a top local biker and one of the organizers of Salisbury’s criterion. He said start/finish lines have been changed slightly, moved to the 200 block of North Main Street in front of the Rowan County Courthouse.
Brown said one of the drawbacks of staging an evening race is that spectator turnout is often greater for the early races than for the final race that features the professional bikers who travel at considerably higher speeds.
“You’ve got to make a decision,” Brown said. “If you want to see the fastest riders, you’ve got to stay for the whole thing or make up your mind you’re just going to show up after 8 p.m.”
For those who decide to stay and cheer riders for the duration, Brown said the commitment is both appreciated and rewarded.
“I promise it won’t disappoint,” he said.
Brown said the number of racers competing in the Downtown Salisbury Criterion has increased from one year to the next. Other bike races held in Salisbury throughout the year are staged around City Park.
“Salisbury has become a hot spot for bike racing,” Brown said. “It has definitely put the community on the map.”