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Beginning this spring, Havre de Grace residents will have a new form of exercise and entertainment.

The Havre de Grace Criterium is a series of bike races tentatively scheduled for the second Saturday of each month from May to September.

“The criterium is a closed-course race in a loop,” Ed Sheets, owner of Chesapeake Cycle and Sport in Havre de Grace, said. “It’s a lot like auto racing held in an urban environment, usually downtown. And it’s a timed event.”

The bike series is sanctioned through USA Cycling, the official governing body for all disciplines of competitive cycling in the United States, and is open to men and women in various age groups.

The Havre de Grace criterium is expected to include two races between 6 and 9 p.m.

“It’s a twilight criterium,” Sheets said.

Bike riders interested in the criterium would be required to register and pay a fee of about $25.

“We have some cash prizes for the top finishers in their groups,” Sheets said.

Chesapeake Cycle is working in conjunction with Upper Chesapeake Health to run the event, which is supported by Havre de Grace Main Street.

“The town is perfect for it,” Sheets said about Havre de Grace. “We’ve been talking to the Bel Air Main Street as well. It’s a nice, historic downtown area.”

Sheets, who also owns Chesapeake TriSport in Bel Air, said criteriums are better suited for small towns instead of big cities.

“It’s an idea to help promote tourism in the city,” he said. “It’s a great location with tons of restaurants. There are tons of opportunities for businesses to get involved and help with the event. It’s really good stuff.”

The criterium is also designed as a spectator sport, unlike triathlons or other multi-sport competitions, Sheets said.

“You won’t have 700 participants and 200 spectators,” he said. “It’s the other way around. It’s fun. It’s interactive.”

While there is sure to be a lot of excitement, the criterium is also environmentally safe and family-friendly.

“At the same time, there’s no noise, no pollution. It’s relatively the safest form of racing you can do on a vehicle. They won’t have cars out in the crowd,” Sheets said. “It’s a lot of fun, just great and kind of a festival atmosphere.”

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