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Road Trip

Join a Pedal Parade in Wilmington, Del.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

WHERE: Wilmington, Del.

WHY: Pros on wheels, a world-record bike parade and river sports.

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HOW FAR: About nine miles from start to finish.

Call it the Tour de Delaware, with an American accent. Starting Wednesday, the Wilmington Grand Prix is expected to draw 15,000 cyclists and pedestrians to the state's largest city for a full roster of events involving two wheels and a lot of leg power. Even more noteworthy is the Grand Prix's bid to set the Guinness World Record for the largest parade of bicycles. The number to beat is 1,901, set last year in Taipei, Taiwan.

With its compact urban center of about 17 square miles, Wilmington has a small but growing population of bicyclists, says Sarah Green, executive director of the Urban Bike Project, a local nonprofit group that provides bikes, workshops and other resources to cyclists. Pedalers also take advantage of the user-friendly paths along the Riverwalk and in Rockford Park, both of which are especially bucolic this time of year. "When you've been biking all winter under bare trees, and then you ride under trees and it's a really bright, fresh canopy," Green says, "that's really exciting."

The Grand Prix gets rolling with a Wednesday night reception at the Delaware History Museum, where guests can enjoy light refreshments amid a collection of state artifacts. Two nights later, the event gets an adrenaline kick at the block party, which will feature food from Wilmington restaurants and music by local rockers the Snap. Revelers can also watch the Iron Mike Time Trial, in which 120 bikers will take off at 30-second intervals to race on a grueling seven-mile downtown course.

On Saturday, USA Cycling, the country's governing body for bicycle racing, will host three races on a course in the historic district. (Street closure alert!) The competitions aren't open for the public to take part in, but the family bike parade is. In fact, event organizers want everyone to attend -- or at the very least, you and 1,901 of your closest friends. If successful, the 2.1-mile group ride could be entered into the Guinness annals. So, dust off your old Schwinn and get your kid some training wheels. Wilmington needs your help to make biking history.

-- Ben Chapman

Wilmington Grand Prix reception: Wednesday, 4-6 p.m. Delaware History Museum, 504 N. Market St. Free. Block party: Friday, 5-9 p.m. Plaza at City Center, Delaware Avenue and Tatnall Street. $5. Bike parade: Saturday at 2 p.m., register by 1 p.m. at Second and King streets. Free-$5. Bike races: Saturday at noon, 3 and 4:15 p.m. 818 N. Market St. Free for spectators. 302-655-6483. http://www.wilmgrandprix.com.


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