Hundreds turn out for Bike Fest

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

DULUTH -- Richard Hambrick finished near the end of the pack Thursday, pumping hard around the sweltering asphalt of a Gwinnett Arena parking lot.

The middle-aged Lawrenceville resident was one of several hundred cyclists competing in the day's leg of Gwinnett Bike Fest, one of the largest race series in the Southeast in its fourth year at various courses around the county.

Hambrick's finish -- not great, or completely unexpected -- was a side note, he said. It was just good to see cycling in the area.

"There's a lot of 'share the road' signs around here, but not a lot of people pay attention to them," said Hambrick, who confessed he usually only competes in triathalons. "So it's good to get events here so people can participate and maybe understand a little bit about cycling."

After beginning at Road Atlanta in Braselton on Wednesday, Thursday's Gwinnett Center Criterium was the second day of competition. Cyclists from across the area, across the region and across all age groups will compete in Dacula, Norcross and Lawrenceville by the close of the weekend.

With a large sporting community in the area, Gwinnett Bike Fest's numbers have grown over the years.

"There's a large contingency of cyclists in Atlanta and metro Atlanta," said Pete Sherrard, one of the organizers of the events. "I remember when we got this thing going, a lot of them were excited about it, because there wasn't that big signature race in the area."

"Now they have something on their own turf."

Even with several riders passing out due to the heat Thursday, Gwinnett remains a cyclist-friendly environment. It's mixture urban, suburban and rural regions make it the perfect place to host a five-day mish-mash of races meant to challenge all different kinds of racers.

A smattering of supporters braved the brutal temperatures made even more dangerous by the all-encompassing asphalt Thursday.

"It's a big deal (having cycling events in Gwinnett), definitely," said Marietta resident Leslie Degan, whose son raced Thursday. "We don't have to drive too face for this one."

After competing Thursday, Hambrick called the experience "very cool." He said he may compete in more races throughout the weekend, but...

"We'll have to see how my legs feel," he said, laughing.

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