Cyclists push their limits in Ninth Street Derby

Apr. 21, 2013 @ 09:57 PM

Last year, Zeb King said, he watched the Ninth Street Derby cycling races in from the sidelines as he was still recovering from injuries sustained when he was hit by a vehicle while riding.

On Sunday, the 22-year-old Appalachian State University student was back on the road, taking first place in the men’s Atlantic Collegiate Cycling Conference championship criterium Category A race in the Durham derby.

Criterium racing is “a little bike racing and a little NASCAR,” said Rusty Miller, an organizer of the Ninth Street Derby and the head coach of the Duke Cycling club team. Criterium racing involves cycling competitors racing in packs as they do laps around a half-mile course.

In its second year, the derby drew collegiate and community cyclists to do laps around blocked off sections of Ninth, Perry, Iredell and Markham streets.

Several categories of races were held on Sunday, including community races as well as collegiate criterium races held as part of the ACCC conference championships.

Duke Cycling was the Division II season team conference champion for criteruim, road and team-time trial racing, said Miller, who said he’s had a dream of organizing a race on Ninth Street for about a decade. He said he wants to grow the event in Durham.

Caroline Moakley, a 24-year-old N.C. State University graduate student, took first place in the women’s Category A criterium race in the derby. She’s been racing about two years, she said, after picking it up when she got tired of running.

“It got boring,” said Moakley, who said she now rides about 10 to 15 hours per week in the Cary area.  “I rode a bike and got hooked.”

Terry Forrest, 56, of Goldsboro, said he had just returned home from a vacation trip to Mexico when he got a call from a friend about the race.

“I got a kitchen pass and (came) on down,” said Forrest, who said he ended up taking third place in the men’s Category 5 race.

The race was intense, with high-speed sprints off tight turns, Forrest said. He said he felt the event had a “great atmosphere,” drawing people of a range of different ages.

“It’s fun for all,” he said.

Durham resident Cornell Cannady came to have lunch with a friend and arrived to find blocked-off streets. He parked nearby and walked to Ninth, and watched the derby from a seat outside Chubby’s Tacos.

“It’s amazing – this is the first bike race I’ve seen in Durham,” said Cannady, who said he’s also a cyclist as well. “It’s a welcome sight. It’s a healthy thing to do because cycling is one of the best sports you can do as far s not (being) hard on your joints.”

At the Ox & Rabbit Soda & Sundries shop on Ninth, co-owner Bryan Nickelstage said business was about the same as on any Sunday. He said they had customers ordering sodas, floats and shakes in bursts in between races.

Nickelstage said he believes the event brings people to Ninth Street who wouldn’t normally be there, in addition to locals. From the shop, he said he had a good view of the races. Every minute or minute or minute and a half, “all of a sudden, a (bunch) of bikes go by in a blur,” he said.

King, a junior at Appalachian State, said he’s been cycling for about three years, picking up the sport as an alternative to running and following a knee injury.

The junior said he didn’t participate in the Ninth Street Derby last year because of his accident injuries. He said he hit by a vehicle while riding near campus and had broken bones in his back and had a punctured lung, among other injuries.

He said he still races, enjoying the excitement and pushing his “body to the limit.” On Sunday, he said he and another rider were able to get out front, and he was able to beat the other competitor to the finish.

“You can’t give up something you love,” he said.