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Where two wheels and slick ice meet

If you didn’t think motorcycle racers were crazy enough already, try putting them on ice. The Kitchener Memorial Auditorium played host to just such a group of riders from around the world competing Monday in Extreme International Ice Racing (XIIR).

Cambridge resident Mike Hammond, originally from Elmira, competed in five heats in the Speedway category at his first-ever XIce race. Hammond has competed in speedway races on dirt tracks previously, but was nervous before testing his skills on a surface with less integrity.

“I’ve been out on the local pond practicing, but the ice there versus the ice indoors, I’m not sure how it will compare,” he said.

Hammond said he has had an interest in motorcycles for most of his life and road raced in the early 1990s. After taking some time off from the racing circuit, a friend suggested speedway racing to him three years ago.

CELEBRATION TIME Speedway riders celebrate their win on ice at the Extreme International Ice Racing competition at the Aud Jan. 30. Charlie Venegas finished first in the final event, while Anthony Barlow was second and third place went to Kelly Kerrigan.

“I picked it up as a hobby and it’s pretty addictive,” he said. “It’s unique. I’ve ridden motorcycles most of my life and speedway is opposite to everything. You go into a corner and you have to roll on the gas, you can’t get off the gas or you’re in trouble. “

The difference in the style makes it more challenging and keeps Hammond interested in the series. He races at the Paris Fairgrounds in the summer.

Hammond said he was expecting the surface to be stickier than it was. The smooth ice was very slippery, but he adjusted to racing on the colder track.

“Growing up in Canada, in and out of the rink, you get used to it,” he laughed. “Some of the guys from California actually had heaters sitting on their laps down in the pits.”

Although Hammond didn’t win any of his four-man heats, he managed to keep his bike upright on the slippery surface and made a good showing for a first-time out, not allowing the competition to get too far ahead of him.

XIIR founder Anthony Barlow was impressed with Hammond’s performance.

“I thought he rode great,” said Barlow. “Most guys that are doing it, they run a gap. I thought he was brilliant, I didn’t even expect him to make it around.”

This is the second year the AMA sponsored tour has come to the Aud. Facility spokesperson Jeremy Dueck said the response to last year’s event was positive.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Dueck. “It’s a very tight space. It’s just a regular ice hockey surface.”

Racing in a circular formation where the Kitchener Rangers normally play, the speedway racers rode special bikes with studded tires and no brakes. Hammond said the rider controls the bike using the throttle and his body weight. Quads also had a class in the event.

Hammond enjoyed his first XIce event and will compete again. Fans can see him and all the riders when XIIR comes to the General Motors Centre in Oshawa on Feb. 11.

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