CARY — Downtown Cary speed limits were flouted with impunity Saturday by traffic going well past the 25-mph speed limit, but town officials didn’t mind.
Instead of automobiles, it was high-speed bicycles racing through a closed one-mile course at speeds in excess of 30 mph.
The first annual Orange Star Criterium sponsored by the town and organized by the Cycling Spoken Here bike shop drew more than 110 racers and a flock of curious spectators. Crowds watched a series of races stretching from the afternoon into the evening.
“I love the speed and the adrenaline,” said Rick Creed of Raleigh, who competed in two races Saturday. “When you’re going 35 to 40 miles per hour, bumper to bumper with other riders, it’s fun.”
Organizers said the event was a perfect fit with all the bicycle enthusiasts in Cary and the Triangle. In November, Cary voters approved a transportation bond issue that includes $1 million for improving bicycle facilities and programs in town.
“Cycling is really growing as a sport in Cary, and the town is really committed to spreading the word about cycling and educating people about the benefits of cycling for fitness,” said Juliet Andes, principal planner for Cary.
The event included a few vending tents with information about bicycling. But Steve Levine, the founder of Cycling Spoken Here, said he’s envisioning the race getting bigger and better next year, with bands and more vendors as word spreads.
The event caught the attention of Margie Landon and Brady Kempton, a couple who moved from Raleigh to Cary only a few weeks ago. The couple said they saw it as an opportunity to have lunch in the area, explore downtown Cary and watch some high-speed racing.
“We’re really new to the area, and we wanted to support the local businesses,” Kempton said.
Zach Story said he hadn’t known about the event until he ran into one of the riders Saturday at the post office. The Cary father decided to bike the three miles from his home to the race course with his 5-year-old daughter, Mia.
“It was a great excuse to get out on the bike and ride into town,” he said.
Many of the people who gathered around the start and finish line on Academy Street were there because they knew the participants. Peter Laidlaw came to show his support for Creed, a co-worker at the State Employees Credit Union.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Laidlaw of Cary. “I’m glad they have it in Cary. I’m just glad I’m not racing out there.”
Creed, 49, finished second in the men’s 35-and-older race. After the grueling 45-minute race, he had 15 minutes to prepare for the men’s 45-and-older race. He finished in seventh in that 40-minute race.
Creed estimated he sweated off 10 pounds of fluid in the more than 90-degree heat.
As hot as it was, Ryan Williams, 45, of Carrboro, said he wasn’t going to turn down a chance to go up against many of the cyclists with whom he regularly races. He finished in second in the men’s 45-and-older race.
“We all know each other,” he said. “We want to see who’s better.”