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Ladies and gentleman, start your pedals

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Before Henry County native and aviation pioneer Wilbur Wright took flight in his world famous glider, he and brother Orville specialized in bicycles. If only the Wright brothers could see what will unfold Saturday, July 27, in New Castle’s Baker Park.

Cyclists from all across the country will gather here for a series of races in and around Baker Park as Foam Rubber Products teams with Healthy Communities of Henry County to sponsor the first annual New Castle Criterium Challenge. The event, which will feature official races for all ages and offer prizes up to $1,500, also offers a “recreational ride” for local children and adults.

At a recent meeting of the New Castle Parks and Recreation Board, President Patty Broyles praised all involved for bringing such a unique event here.

“If you’re out on July 27, go to Baker Park. I think it will be something to see,” Broyles said.

Bergum, the city parks superintendent, stressed however motorists need to use caution that day around the park and that several streets would be closed to through traffic. 

“All of the streets around Baker Park will be closed that day,” Bergum said. “The course runs through Baker, comes out on Q, goes north on South Main, veers back into the main entrance and then come back out by the high school exit at Baker Shelterhouse two, and then back in. There will be some traffic detours.”

Mayor Greg York said the event would be a good thing for New Castle in many respects.

“I talked to Norm Smith, president of Foam Rubber Products and he said he’s got representation from just about every state in this event,” Mayor York said. “The big draw for this is the 27th is on a Saturday and the next day, they have a race in Muncie. So instead of traveling and only going to one race as USA Cyclers often do, they can come to New Castle and Muncie and get two races in one weekend. He says the response he’s got has just been outstanding.”

Bergum said the course riders will have is considered unique among USA Cycling events. The start-finish line will be north of the pool and the staging area will be in the “big grassy area” north of the pool and skatepark. The high school parking lot will be used for teams with trailers.

Baker Park has become more bicycle friendly this year, thanks to Scott Frost and his sister, Tanya Alford. They have donated a bicycle pump and repair station for cyclists in memory of their parents.

While some roads in and around the park will be closed that day, the Aquatics Center at Baker Pool will remain open, Bergum said. Mayor York added that even though there won’t be any traffic allowed around the park, the city’s new speed limit signs would remain on.

“Norm said he wanted to leave the speed limit sign up at the pool because they’ll be doing in between 40 and 45 mph and it’s an ego boost for them,” York said, drawing laughter from the group.

The event, designed to raise awareness for healthy lifestyle habits while giving the community an exciting spectator sport to watch, will also raise some money for Healthy Communities of Henry County and local Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddles. For more information, call 765-521-2000.