With a name that could be taken directly from a Harry Potter movie, the Salem Witches Cup pays homage to the city that will forever be known to the 1692 witch trials. Almost three hundred years later, a different trial takes place, as the Witches Cup brings together amateur and professional cyclists to race around the half-mile Common.
While cycling has always been one of Belgium's top sports, it is a fairly new phenomenon in the USA. With the rise of popularity in cycling, the Witches Cup stands tall among the dozens of other criteria that are put on each year. Organized by a small group of volunteers, the event attracts some of the top East Coast cyclists to compete in laps around the Salem Common. This 9-acre historic park - birthplace of the National Guard - offers a unique European feel, whereby riders can be followed all along the circular track and 'woosh' by every 70 seconds.
Excitement, disappointment and frustration are part of this high speed race, and with riders competing for mid-race preems, spectators are guaranteed a front row seat during the many sprints and attacks which can reach up to 45mph. Yet, like its Belgian counterparts, the Witches Cup would not the same without the ambiance, as spectators cheer on the riders with cow bells and flags. Festive beer tents, offing Belgian beers such as Kwaremont and Wittekerke, and local craft brews from Far From The Tree and Notch Brewing Company add to the distinct character and ambiance.
Feature event of the day were the Women Pro racers competing for the Massachusetts State Championship, followed the Men's Pro 60 minute race, Women's Cat 4/5, and Men's Cat 3/4 that both went for about 40 minutes.
Closing in on its 40th anniversary in 2019, organizers Dan Shuman, Kurt Maw and David Greenway have a unique concept that is a perfect fit for a summer afternoon. Maybe by then they will add a quidditch broomstick category, a feature that certainly would be welcomed in the aptly nicknamed Witch City.