Speed freaks don't have a very good reputation these days. But the backers and fans of the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver may be exceptions to that rule. After all, Mayor John "Vespa" Hickenlooper has signed on as grand marshal for the second annual spin on 1.65 miles of urban roadway around the Pepsi Center. While no one could mistake the mayor for the lead in, say, 2 Fast 2 Furious, his support of the quicken-loopers isn't surprising: Promoters predict the three-day race, which opens to the public each day at 7 a.m., will draw 100,000 fans.
"With the CU-CSU game, the Taste of Colorado and the Grand Prix, Denver is the place to be on Labor Day weekend," Hickenlooper proclaims. And big as those other events may be, they can't compete with the Grand Prix's strangely intoxicating aroma of burning rubber and exhaust or the nasal twang of cars flying around the retooled track.
Until the starter's flag falls at 1 p.m. Sunday, setting into motion the likes of Paul Tracy, Tiago Monteiro and Michel Jourdain Jr. for the main event, spectators will find plenty to fuel their motorhead madness. For openers, fans can visit a Lifestyle Expo filled with exhibits, souvenirs and demonstrations by BMX bikers and boarders. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will pluck away at a post-race concert -- free to Grand Prix ticket-holders -- in the Universal Lending Pavilion at 5 p.m. Saturday. (Although the veteran musicians aren't exactly nitro-fuel burners, they'll definitely generate some heat.) And kids can rev their engines daily in the Kid Zone, an area featuring face-painting, jugglers and other youth-inspired pastimes. (Sorry -- no pint-sized hotrods.)
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Grand Prix tickets range from $25 to $105 and are available by calling 1-888-82-SPEED or 1-562-436-9953. For more racy details, turn the ignition at www.gpdenver.com. -- Ernie Tucker
Fat Tire on fire
Strap on your skid lid and rip through a rock field this weekend when the Arapahoe Warriors Cycling Club and the Mountain State Cup series host the eighth annual Snake River Fat Tire Bike Festival at Keystone Resort. The three-day showcase of championship mountain-bike racing and guided recreational group rides kicks off today with several events to accommodate all cycling levels, from beginner to pro. Seasoned vets will stare down gravity in the Snake River Cross Country Race, scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. starting gun. For pedalers twelve and under, there's a free Snakey Kids' Race at 2 p.m., followed by a complimentary bicycle-maintenance clinic. On Sunday, the Optimizer Observed Trial Competition gears up at 11 a.m., boasting a championship circuit course with postcard views. But the stakes get raised well above treeline on Monday, September 1, when the field's most elite carb-scarfin' adrenaline-seekers compete in the Defender Downhill Race, starting at 10 a.m. A four-mile, 2,400-foot vertical drop of technical, descending single track, this widow-making spectacle guarantees to trip the electrolytes fantastic.
For Fat Tire information, call 1-970-468-0159 or visit www.warriorscycling.com. -- John LaBriola