Pedal power: Grand Junction Motor Speedway will host criterium bike race

Cyclists who want to change their routine will get a chance to race on a different track - the Grand Junction Motor Speedway. Starting Wednesday, there will be a criterium race at the speedway every Wednesday until July 7.

James Combs has participated in several bicycle criterium races.

The 23-year-old, who is attending Mesa State College through a national student exchange program, found one a little different.

Combs is competing in the first Grand Junction Motor Speedway Criterium Series race Wednesday night at the Speedway, 3030 N. I-70 Frontage Road. The first of four races takes place at 6 p.m. Registration begins at 5 p.m. at the track. The entry fee is $15 per person.

“It’s perfect,” Combs said. “I don’t like a crit that doesn’t have a lot of turns in it. A crit is supposed to test your ability to handle a bike.

“The races are a lot shorter and there are tons of turns, so you take them a lot faster. When you have 40 guys around you trying to make a tight turn and somebody screws up, 15 people will go down. I can say it’s fun because I haven’t gone down before.”

A criterium is a timed race with a group start. It will take place on a nine-tenths-mile track. If there is one race, it will be 40 minutes plus five laps. If there are enough cyclists for two races, Group A (Category 1-3) will be 40 minutes plus three laps and Group B (Category 4-5 and Masters) will be 30 minutes plus two laps.

The series was pursued by team member Justin Hemmer, who had a friend that raced karts at the track. He is the race director.

“Its a unique track,” Hemmer said. “There are a lot of left turns, up and down and it has a chicane (S curve). There are a lot of fast corners. Most criteriums are on blocked off two-lane streets through town.

“We’ll see how many show up for race two after they do race one. It’s a fun deal. If there’s a problem, we can change up the track and go in the opposite direction or make some other changes.”

There were four bicyclists signed up for the event through Monday morning. Hemmer said they will probably cap the race at 30, but can add a second class if there is enough interest.

“Last week, the (Livetrainrace) team did group ride,” Combs said. “We talked to everybody there. I know Justin mentioned it. Everyone seems to be interested.”

Combs competes in road races and mountain bike races as well, but says criteriums are the most exciting.

“It’s a lot fun,” Combs said. “It’s a lot more intense than a road race. This is a non-stop, fast-paced kind of thing. I short-track race on mountain bikes and it’s similar to that.”

The criterium will continue through July 7.

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