Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mt. Hood Cycling Classic makes big leap in 2009

The good news is that Oregon's successful six-year-old Mt. Hood Cycling Classic will retain its prominent place on the National Race Calendar.

The better news is that the continually growing race will be undergoing some big changes in 2009.

The freshly re-minted event will be named the Oregon Pro Cycling Classic, and it will morph to eight days, covering 600 miles and 50,000 feet of climbing, according to the Oregonian.

"It will hands down be the most difficult stage race in the U.S.," spokesman Tre Hendricks told reporter Boaz Herzog of The Oregonian. "We want to build the reputation of the race so that the best riders in the world want to come here."

The 2009 edition will start and finish in Portland, Hendricks told Herzog, and it will feature two additional stages that travel to the Willamette Valley as far south as Eugene.

Other prominent promoters believe the race is well on its way to achieving those goals. From Herzog's report:
"The Mt. Hood Classic has without question gained a fantastic reputation, so I'm not surprised by any means it's taken that next leap," Chris Aronhalt, managing partner of Medalist Sports, which produces and organizes the nation's two most prestigious stage races, the tours of Georgia and California, as well as the Tour of Missouri and LiveStrong Challenge fundraiser in Beaverton.

The chief obstacle for Oregon Pro Cycling Classic organizers' intention to host a bigger, better race: funding. Expanding the race by two stages will probably triple its budget, said Hendricks, adding that the race has covered its expenses to this point.

"It's most definitely a challenge," he said. "The way we're planning to do it is expand our media coverage substantially. That'll draw in a host of different sponsors than we've had in the past."
The Oregon Pro Cycling Classic will be an invitational-only format for the 2009 men's race, and promoters hope to recruit America's best teams and some Europeans. The extension to eight days means the race will match the Tour of California in length and exceed the length of the (now-canceled) Tour de Georgia by one day.

In the future the race may grow to reach areas as far away as Crater Lake and the Wallowa Mountains.

The six-stage 2008 edition took place from May 13 to 18. Rory Sutherland (Health Net/Maxis) won the men's race, and Julie Beveridge (Aaron's Professional Cycling Team) grabbed the women's top prize.

The boys from Bissell control the pace for their man in yellow during the Mt. Tabor Criterium stage of the 2008 Mt. Hood Cycling Classic.