First race. First rule broken.

Five kids lined up for the first heat of the Candy Cane Challenge at Central Maine Powersports in Lewiston.

“No running across the track,” Travis Steward announced before the night’s first green flag dropped.

Parents could not help themselves. They had to, given the fact that there were 40 kids as young as 2 racing during Thursday’s event.

Heats were broken down by ability, wheel size and type of bike.

Strider bikes have two wheels and no pedals. Commonly known as balance bikes, Striders wiz along as fast as kids can use their legs to push the bikes along.

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The bikes are often a child’s first attempt at riding a bicycle.

“They are great at teaching a kid how to balance,” said Craig Anderson, co-owner of Central Maine Powersports.

Stacyc cycles don’t have pedals either. They have a small electric motor instead. “One gear, three power ranges,” explained Jason Benner of Raymond.

The Candy Cane Challenge featured both Striders and Stacycs.

Benner’s 3-year-old son, Jackson, was there to race his Stacyc, but as his mother pointed out, Jackson was more interested in everything else going on around him than racing.

“Some kids have that drive to race” said Amy Benner. “Not Jackson.” He was there to climb around on three-wheelers and play with friends.

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Jason Benner was one of the many parents that had to break the number one rule: “No running across the track.”

The indoor course that featured seven corners, five hairpins turns and four straightaways was created on the CMPS showroom floor.

Keeping the kids on course was a challenge for parents as some children went straight when they needed to turn, turned when they needed to go straight, crashed into soft barriers made out of tires or simply broke down in tears when things did not go as planned.

Thursday’s Candy Cane Challenge happened out of necessity, said Anderson. Weekly balance bike competitions at Hemond’s MX & Offroad Park in Minot were so popular over the summer that Anderson said the racing needed to continue. “We have the indoor space so why not,” said Anderson.

Hemond’s hosted Strider/Stacyc races every Monday throughout the summer and finished the outdoor racing season with the Pumpkin Run Series, which was held over four weeks in October.

“The days got shorter, but that did not stop it,” said Jason Benner. The racing went inside through a collaboration between Hemond’s and CMPS.

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Anderson said he capped Thursday’s race at 4o kids. “I figured each child would come with at least one parent and one grandparent and that would fill the space.”

Jason Benner said that young children competing on their bikes grew and grew over the summer.

“There was maybe 12 at the first race and then there were around 45 coming every Monday,” said Benner. “It just blew up this summer.”

Children traveled down from Peru and Canton and from as far away at Whitefield, New Hampshire, a two-hour drive.

“This is really fun to see,” said Anderson. “These kids are amazing at what they do.”


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