Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lack of Sponsor Derails 2009 Oregon Pro Cycling Classic

The Oregon Pro Cycling Classic is the latest sporting victim of the flailing economy.

Following on the heals of the 2009 Tour de Georgia, which promoters recently canceled, organizers of the inaugural Oregon Pro Cycling Classic today postponed plans for the pumped up invitation-only, eight-stage offspring of the successful Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, saying they were going to focus on 2010.

"We tried very hard these past six months to find the necessary funding to make the event happen," promoter Chad Sperry wrote in an e-mail to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association. "But with the City of Portland pulling its support, and (race promoters) not being able to come up with a title sponsor, we are forced to postpone the event until 2010."

Sperry and Breakaway Promotions had planned the OPCC, initially scheduled for May 11-17, to be two stages longer than the 2008 Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, which started in Portland.

The 2009 pro race was also supposed to start and finish in Portland. The plan called for stages also finishing around Mt. Hood and Hood River, with two additional stages that traveled to the Willamette Valley as far south as Corvallis. Organizers had hoped that in the future a statewide OPCC could grow to reach areas such as Crater Lake and the Wallowa Mountains.

Sperry still has big plans for 2010.

"(W)e live in the most amazing state when it comes to spectacular roads, beautiful scenery and the most incredible cycling community. It is our goal to be able to showcase this in a statewide tour," he wrote. "And we will continue on with this dream for an event in May 2010 with one of the biggest pro men's and the biggest pro women's races in the country."

Race spokesman Tre Hendricks told Oregonian reporter Boaz Herzog in July of last year that funding would be the chief obstacle for the race organizers' intention to host a bigger, better pro-only race in 2009. Expanding the race by two stages would have probably tripled its budget, he said.

"It's most definitely a challenge," Hendricks told the Oregonian.

If it was a challenge in good times, the current economic bad news may have doomed organizers' attempts to expand the race.

Good news is that the traditional Mt. Hood Cycling Classic will be back June 3-7, although it won't enjoy the National Race Calendar and UCI status that attracted so many pros last year.

Oregon's granddaddy of stage races, the Cascade Classic, will also be on tap July 22-25.