McDowell rides the Chief Ladiga Trail back home in Piedmont, but after seeing a female racer take a spill during one of Saturday’s Sunny King Criterium cycling races, he admitted speed just isn’t his thing.
“I don’t mind driving that fast, but I wouldn’t be going that fast on a bicycle,” he said, adding that this year makes his third visiting the festival.
McDowell was one of the many hundreds that attended the Noble Street Festival Saturday, where visitors mingled with professional and amateur cyclists, listened to live music and ate food from local restaurants.
Teddy Paudrups spent Saturday passing freshly-baked macarons from his Anniston bakery, Artisanal Baked Goods.
Paudrups food stand was one of many at the festival, where the hungry ate at tables on Noble Street with views of the racecourse.
“This is our first push for this kind of thing, so we’re seeing how it goes. Trying to get the word out,” said Paudrups, who, along with his brother Martin, opened his bakery last year.
And like the local eateries, businesses along Noble worked to make the best of the swelling crowds.
Deborah Brogi, with the Anniston Yoga and Healing Arts Center on Noble, spent the day handing out flyers.
Brogi teaches meditation at the center, and said “When I was about 15 back in the 1960s it was very popular.”
The practice isn’t as big in modern day Anniston, she explained.
“It’s an uphill battle here in Anniston. But hey, one person. That’s all the difference you have to make in the world,” she said, before heading back out into the crowd with her flyers.
Race organizer Mike Poe spent part of the day watching the cyclists rush past the finish line.
One such cyclist made an early break during the Mens Category 4-5 race, pushing hard to keep it as competitors fought to overtake.
“That guy’s got a motor,” Poe said, explaining that it takes about 30 percent more energy to ride alone out front, where the wind hits them like a wall.
Poe watched as Justin Meschler held on to win with a nine second lead on the second place finisher.
Cycling is often a family sport, with riders young and old arriving together to watch, or to take part in the day’s races.
Like Reece Latham and his Roswell, Ga.-based Junior Flyers Elite Cycling teammate Elias Dietrich, both nine-years-old and both with cycling fathers.
By noon, Reece and Elias had finished their juniors race, and stood in their jerseys, pausing for an interview with a reporter long enough to watch a Storm Trooper mount an adult tricycle.
The trooper is a member of a local branch of an international costume organization made up of Star Wars fans, regular visitors of the festival.
“I love it here,” Latham said, adding that he’s been to Anniston for the races for several years and will come back next year.
Freda Drake, originally from South Africa, stood against the course barrier with other families, eager to catch a glimpse of her husband Anthony, an amateur racer, as he rushed past with the other cyclists in a burst of speed and color.
Drake, who lives in Birmingham with her husband — a doctor when he isn’t racing — and their three children, said cycling is big in South Africa, especially in the larger cities.
“Like Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria,” Drake said.
When asked if it’s hard to be the wife of an amateur cyclist — always traveling for races and watching the kids while he gets in practice rides — Freda said no.
“For me it’s good. He’s always happy when he’s racing. It keeps him going,” Drake said.
Being a physician is incredibly stressful, she explained, and the cycling helps.
“You need something to just release that stress, so I think the bike is what’s doing it for him,” Drake said. “And it helps to keep him healthy.”
Drake’s 6-year-old son, Ty, smiled as he stood atop his Trek bicycle, helmet on, patiently awaiting his turn on the race course.
The kid’s race, scheduled for later that afternoon, wouldn’t be Ty’s first, his mother explained.
“He always races. He’s been racing since he was 3,” Drake said.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.