Collaboration, Patience brings the Maryland Cycling Classic to the finish line


The Maryland Cycling Classic is a 120.4-mile race that will take professional cyclists through Baltimore County and Baltimore City on Sunday, September 4 as part of the UCI ProSeries, a top-tier division of cycling on male road.

Talk to event organizers and they’ll tell you that this looks like a one-of-a-kind event.

“Roaming the rural terrain … then getting into the fast and furious street racing and nowhere to hide in downtown Baltimore is a pretty unique combination,” said Chris Aronhalt, president of Medalist Sports, which coordinates the effort to plan and execute a safe event for riders and fans.

“I don’t think in doing this for over 25 years that I’ve ever seen a class like this,” said Steve Brunner, president of KOM Sports Marketing, which handles the promotional and sponsorship aspects of the event. ‘event.

The Maryland Cycling Classic was originally scheduled for September 6, 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has twice forced the event to be postponed. The process to reach the finish line in 2022 has been arduous and the race itself poses many logistical challenges that require meticulous preparation and collaboration from everyone involved.

Although the race was suspended for two years, the idea had been simmering for much longer. Terry Hasseltine, president of the Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland, began thinking about the possibility of a professional cycling event in 2008, and when Hagerstown hosted the United States National Amateur Road Cycling Championships in 2018 and 2019 , USA Cycling has indicated that Maryland would be a good location for a professional event.

As such, Hasseltine and his group reached out to Georgia-based Medalist Sports and Colorado-based KOM Sports Marketing, who had partnered to run major North American cycling events in the past. The parties concluded that a race in the Baltimore area made sense and contacted the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body of international cycling) and USA Cycling to determine a date for the inaugural race. Labor Day weekend in 2020 was the target until COVID-19 hit.

Maryland is a good choice for a professional cycling event for a myriad of reasons beyond the unique nature of the terrain, according to Hasseltine. The success of the 2015 UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia showed the potential of the mid-Atlantic region as a host of major cycling events. Additionally, the Maryland Cycling Classic is the only US race on the UCI ProSeries and World Tour calendars in 2022, filling a void after several US events disappeared from the UCI calendar in recent years.

Also, Labor Day weekend is perfect for riders, as they will be coming to this part of the world anyway for the UCI World Tour events in Quebec on September 9 and 11. It’s also perfect for Maryland, with the race taking place just before the start of the NFL season.

“It’s a period that’s usually relatively quiet in the market, so bringing an event with a high international profile to the market was part of our long-term strategy between making sure we’re not [only] we organize world-class events, but we also organize world-class events with an international touch associated with them as well,” said Hasseltine.

Sixteen teams of seven riders will participate in the Maryland Cycling Classic, with athletes representing up to 30 different countries. Runners will start the race outside the Kelly Benefits headquarters in Sparks at 1:30 p.m. on race day and are expected to finish at Pratt and Market Streets around 6 p.m., shortly after the Orioles-Athletics game ends at Camden Yards. . The race takes riders near the Pennsylvania border, around Prettyboy Reservoir and finally on a four-lap journey through Baltimore that can end in a sprint to the finish line.

The race is free for fans. Brunner suggests heading to Kelly Benefits around noon to meet the riders, who will mingle with fans and sign autographs while tweaking their bikes. Beyond that, Brunner says the “scenic beauty” of Prettyboy Reservoir would be a great place to watch races – and, of course, the finish line at Inner Harbor, where there will be big screens to watch the race with food. , drinks and bike vendors.

One cyclist familiar with the mid-Atlantic terrain is Ben King, a native of Richmond and a member of the UCI ProTeam Human Powered Health.

“First of all, it’s beautiful, the scenery and the scenery,” King said. “… From a sporting point of view, it’s very fast. Lots of areas are hilly or flat, but in and around Baltimore, like Charlottesville, where I train, it’s very hilly – lots of short, steep little kickers which tend to make running more interesting because something can happen at any time. ”

But creating such a unique environment requires tremendous collaboration as traffic on public roads must be managed to make way for racing. Medalist Sports has taken the initiative to coordinate with local police departments to prepare for road closures, as well as work with neighborhood associations and Baltimore churches to ensure no cars are parked on the course on race day. Cross traffic will be allowed.

“Our goal is to limit the impact of using public roads, and we hope people understand this limited inconvenience and actually enjoy the ride as it goes,” Aronhalt said.

It was also a big effort to keep sponsors engaged through two postponements. Brunner and volunteer event chair John Kelly, President of Kelly Benefits, took the initiative to keep lines of communication open with sponsors. UnitedHealthcare remained the race’s primary sponsor throughout.

“We have a good core of sponsors,” Kelly said. “It’s my hope that we can build a legacy event. Once people see it and experience it, it will bring economic value to our city, economic value to our state and county, and hopefully that’s something we can perpetuate.

The Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland operates under a three-year working agreement with the UCI through 2024. The hope is that the Maryland Cycling Classic will become an annual event, and an inaugural slam-dunk event would not harm the cause. The race will be run rain or shine, with thunder or lightning causing delays or shortening it. Hasseltine is expecting 55,000 fans, but weather permitting, there could be more than 100,000 fans on the streets in Baltimore City and County. The race can be streamed on the GCN+ cycling network and the Tour Tracker app.

And it’s not just a one-day event. Bike Jam will take place at Patterson Park from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on September 1, giving kids a chance to learn about cycling for free. Maryland Cycling Classic teams will be featured on Lancaster Street in Harbor East from 6-9 p.m. on September 2. Then, the day before the race, the Bridges of Hope Ride will allow recreational cyclists to ride portions of the course as part of a fundraising effort for the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation.

“I think cycling is an event that has an international dimension, but we also have a number of local and regional people who are great cyclists, and I think we have the opportunity to maybe share a new sport. with a younger generation who may not be as familiar with an event like cycling,” said Visit Baltimore President and CEO Al Hutchinson. “We may be able to attract a whole new cycling community and grow the sport.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Cycling Classic

Number 276: August/September 2022

Originally published August 17, 2022


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