WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Look out for the cyclists Friday and Saturday in Winston-Salem and surrounding areas.
The Winston-Salem Cycling Classic is bringing hundreds of bicycle riders to town, but organizers and police say people should be able to go about their affairs as Easter approaches without having to worry too much about blocked-off streets.
The cycling event is bigger than last’s year’s event and takes place on Good Friday and the following Saturday.
Friday events feature road races that stretch between Hanes Park and Old Salem, but people taking part in spiritual activities – or just going about their business – should find little difficulty getting around, officials said.
“We want to make sure that people are getting safely to the Good Friday events,” said Ray Boden, the event director for the Cycling Classic.
The cycling teams taking part in the two big Friday races will be bunched together, allowing police to close different sections for short periods as the racers go by, Boden said. Police will be escorting the cyclists.
“The whole pack will travel past you in about a minute,” Boden said. “If you need to go onto the route, if the bikes are not there, you are allowed to turn onto the road in the appropriate direction. It is a slight inconvenience.”
Most of the Saturday action will be focused on a loop closed off from traffic and measuring about a mile in downtown Winston-Salem, although both amateur and professional riders will also be taking part in a long-distance ride taking them out to Yadkin County and back for an 82-mile ride that’s just for fun.
Events on Friday kick off with amateur races on Research Parkway in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter that begin at 8:30 a.m.
Those races follow the new road out and back and won’t tie up traffic on any of the other nearby streets.
The women professionals hit the road around 9:30 a.m., making seven trips around the 7.2-mile course that takes them from downtown to the Washington Park neighborhood, then back up to downtown and over to Hanes Park and back.
The men professionals start that same circuit at 1 p.m. and travel around it 15 times.
Officials said prime viewing spots for the road race should include the corner of Sixth and Trade Streets – the finish – and at the top of Pilot View Street, where cyclists will be climbing uphill.
Two very different types of events take place Saturday.
At 8 a.m., cyclists will be departing Winston-Salem on what’s called a “Gran Fondo,” which roughly translates as “big ride” from Italian.
Basically, anyone that wants to can take part and ride in the non-competitive tour of the Yadkin County countryside. Winston-Salem police will be out on that course as well helping to keep everyone safe, although there won’t be road closures.
Officer Bruce Daniel, the special-events and off-duty coordinator for the Winston-Salem Police Department, said that large numbers of on- and off-duty officers will be working the events to make sure they go smoothly.
Things heat up downtown about 4 p.m. on the central downtown course that makes a mile loop. Amateur racers start first, followed by women’s professionals at 4:45 p.m. and men’s professionals at 6 p.m.
While the races are going on, there will also be live musical performances on Trade Street, featuring Below the Line at 5 p.m., The Connells at 6:30 p.m. and Better Than Ezra at 8 p.m.
Boden said that Winston-Salem is getting a reputation as a good cycling town. The city’s being considered for the site of an Olympic bicycle training center. Folks here can handle the influx of cyclists, Boden said.
“In Winston-Salem, we are used to bikes all over the place,” he said. “We are a pretty cycling-intensive area.”