Published 12:00 am Monday, August 5, 2013

SALISBURY — David Carleton, a police officer from Clemmons, started cycling to lose weight after an injury kept him off his feet for four months.
In 2010, he was tracking someone with a dog when he fell down a 30-foot ravine. Carleton’s weight grew to 302 pounds during recovery, but exercise and dietary changes have brought that down to 215.
Carleton was one of several hundred cyclists participating in the Giordana Crossroads Cycling Classic this year. The six-day bike race series ended Sunday and included three events in Salisbury.
Carleton said some of his friends prodded him into joining his first bike race about a week ago in High Point.
“I had so much fun, I decided to do this one,” he said. “I’m competing with kids 30 years younger than me.”
He said he knows that bike races like this help local tourism, and he’s glad to support them.
“With the nightly races, my wife comes and watches, and afterward we go have dinner and look around,” Carleton said.
James Meacham said this is the third year in a three-year agreement between the local tourism bureau and the Crossroads Cycling Classic.
“As always, we’re typically very pleased with Crossroads Cycling, and we’d love to have them back,” Meacham said.
Meacham said he’s excited to figure out how many visitors the community had this year. Visitors can bring tourism dollars into the community by staying in hotels and shopping and eating at local businesses.
“I know some days, we had over 400 riders, which is very solid,” Meacham said.
Neal Boyd said there were a total of 1,946 race entrants over six days, compared to last year’s 1,660 over five days. (This year, a race in Mocksville was added to existing events in Salisbury, Concord and Statesville.)
That number counts each event that each person raced, he said, so the actual number of participants will be smaller.
Boyd said 21 different states were represented in this week of racing, including California, Texas and Illinois.
“I thought it was really successful,” Boyd said. “There was an increase in people traveling from out of state this year, I think, over what we had last year.”
Boyd said this criterium could not happen without the support of the communities involved, especially the city of Salisbury and its police department, along with the Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Jeff Safrit, of Salisbury, said he has signed up for some of the individual races in the past, but this is the first time he has participated in the whole competition.
“It’s great. It’s very encouraging to have races close by and not have to drive two hours to do them,” he said. “That’s definitely a plus, and it’s a good thing for the community.”
Safrit said racing every day gives cyclists less time to recover, which means they have to pay extra attention to their health.
“You have to stay up on your nutrition and keep your muscles fed,” he said. “Salisbury really bit me on Thursday.”
Safrit started racing in 1999 but took a break for about 10 years once he had children. In the past couple of years, he has begun entering races again, “just to see how I do.”
The City Park race in Salisbury included two hills, which the riders climbed and descended multiple times as they rode laps around the tree-lined circuit.
Safrit finished 14th in the race that day, and 7th out of 59 racers in the overall “omnium.”
Safrit’s wife, Carrie, daughter, Jadyn, 10, and sons, Jackson, 12, and Jacob, 8, came to watch him race on Sunday.
“This is my first one,” Carrie said. “It’s exciting for the kids to get to see him race.”
This year’s criterium series has come with its share of falls and crashes, but Carrie Safrit she isn’t too worried about her husband.
“He used to mountain bike race, so this is way, way less nerve wracking,” she said.
Ben Alford, of Kannapolis, said Sunday that this is his first year of racing. He started in April, and he has already finished enough races to move up to Category 4.
“It’s a lot different doing races than just riding in a group,” he said. “It’s a lot harder, but I really enjoy it.”
Alford said he has enjoyed all of the races in the Crossroads Cycling Classic and the venues where they were held. He appreciated how close most of them were to his home in Kannapolis.
“Other times when I go to races, I have to wake up and drive to it to find somewhere to spend the night,” he said.
Alford said he’s pretty pleased with his overall ranking of 17 out of 88 in Category 4. His goal was to finish in the top 20.
“I had a really good time,” Alford said. “I think they put on really a good event, and I definitely want to do it again next year.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.