By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer
Beginning later this month, several downtown Gaffney streets will be roped off for a night of racing.
For a region rich in motor sports history, organizers are hoping the “NASCAR of Cycling” will be a perfect fit here.
Billed as the Friday Night Fights, Two Up Sports has partnered with the City of Gaffney to conduct a series of bicycle races in the downtown area. The first of the Friday Night Fights will be held the evening of July 30 before races come back again to downtown Gaffney on Aug. 27.
“We’re hoping these two races draw enough interest to conduct more races next year,” said Gaffney’s tourism projects manager Will DeBorde.
Bruce Humphries, president and owner of Two Up Sports, hopes the races will become regular events next year — ones that both competitors and spectators will be able to count on for action and entertainment.
While some details still need to be sorted out before July 30, Humphries expects the rectangular course will be one mile long with North Limestone and Petty streets serving as the straightaways. The finish line will be in the area of Gaffney City Hall.
“You want to create a course that’s safe, that’s fast, that’s spectator-friendly and can be repeated over and over again,” Humphries said.
Humphries is trying to enlist sponsorships from downtown businesses for things such as lap prizes. He’s also hoping that businesses will be willing to stay open later on race nights and that the races themselves will bring more and more people into the downtown area.
Racers will be divided into classes during the Friday Night Fights with the race for the beginners class starting at 6 p.m., the masters class race starting at 6:45 p.m. and professional class race starting at 7:30 p.m.
The masters and professional classes will each race for 45 minutes followed by three final laps.
Because it’s a timed event and short course, racing will be tight and fast and Humphries expects professional class riders to average up to 30 mph, or possibly faster.
“With it being right there in front of you, you get to see it unfold,” Humphries said. And perhaps best of all, it’s completely free to watch. “It’s the most accessible sport out there,” Humphries said of bicycle racing.
Humphries started Two Up Sports as a promotion company to organize events like this in towns and cities across the region. Gaffney’s central location and easy access off Interstate 85 make it a great city for these types of races, he said. “I’m hoping the guys who frequent races in Greenville and Charlotte will realize it’s an easy place to get to and they can do it numerous times,” he said. And if it brings more people into downtown Gaffney, he said, “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
“This is definitely something we want to have here,” deBorde said. “We think it can really draw (visitors from) outside of Gaffney and potentially bring in some good tourism once it gets bigger.”
For cyclists and potential sponsors, more information can be found at the registration web site , http://www.pre-reg.com/, which has a link to the Friday Night Fights and contact information.
Asked if he would consider trying to compete, deBorde joked, “I get my mountain bike out every once in a while. My legs can’t handle this stuff.”