With no race director, soaring costs, and an increasing summertime traffic crunch on streets and roads in Central Oregon, the future of the Cascade Cycling Classic is in doubt.
The longest-running road cycling stage race in the country just concluded its 38th edition Sunday, but on the eve of this year’s CCC, 11-year race director Chad Sperry of Breakaway Promotions announced he would not return as race director after 2017.
The CCC has been run for the past 14 years by the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, for which the race has served as a fundraiser. But MBSEF executive director John Schiemer said the foundation could actually lose money from this year’s event. MBSEF events director Molly Cogswell-Kelley said the cost to put on the CCC, a five-stage, five-day race on courses in Bend and around Central Oregon, is more than $200,000.
“The fact that Chad is not coming back, that’s a vital part that … ideally, we want to see the race continue,” said Schiemer. “You don’t necessarily need an MBSEF, but you have to have an owner of the race. And I could not imagine trying to do that race without a race promoter. There’s really only a couple race promoters out there across the country. (Sperry) is irreplaceable. He’s the glue.”
Sperry said he was burned out after 11 years as race director, a stressful job that requires managing an event with endless moving parts.
“It’s been a long time,” Sperry said. “I’ve been in the industry for almost 20 years, and doing this. … Nobody else has even come close to an 11-year mark that has been in my position at this thing. The burnout rate before me (for the CCC) was four to five years per race director.”
The financial side is a concern for Schiemer. Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, the title sponsor, has agreed to a one-year extension of its original three-year commitment but MBSEF still has a decision to make about continuing to put on the CCC, he said.
MBSEF is a nonprofit that offers snow sports and cycling programs to youth.
“They’ve agreed that they would extend it,” Schiemer said of the Regence sponsorship. “But as we do every year, we look at, when everything comes in, does this event still make sense for MBSEF to do? No one would do the race on the shoestring budget that we do it on.”
Some of the biggest costs for MBSEF in staging the CCC include prize purses and officials, costs that increased when the pro men’s race became sanctioned by the International Cycling Union, the sport’s world governing body, for this year’s event. MBSEF has said the men’s race will no longer be sanctioned by the UCI, but Schiemer is more concerned about the effect of the race on the Central Oregon community.
After Wednesday’s McKenzie Pass Road Race, which started in Prineville and finished atop McKenzie Pass, Schiemer said he took some angry calls from folks who were delayed by the race. And during Thursday’s Skyliners Time Trial in west Bend, Schiemer was concerned about road closures keeping hikers and mountain bikers from accessing the popular Phil’s Trailhead and Tumalo Falls area.
“It’s hard to communicate to every person that there’s going to be an event,” Schiemer said. “We had a sign there (on Skyliners Road), but somebody who wants to go hike Tumalo Falls, they might not be driving on that road until the day they want to go to Tumalo Falls.”
Schiemer noted that the increasing summertime crowds and traffic in Central Oregon make it more and more difficult to stage a five-day bike race on roads in and around Bend.
“Bend is so crowded now during the summer,” he said. “Fourteen years ago, it’s my assessment, that many times when people came here and vacationed, they went to Sunriver or Black Butte or Eagle Crest. Not as many people at that time stayed in the town. Now it’s a big number of people who vacation in the town. You know how it is to try to drive right now.”
Schiemer said a decision on whether MBSEF continues to put on the Cascade Cycling Classic could be made in September, when the event’s board of directors is scheduled to meet.
“We evaluate it every year,” Schiemer said. “I did have discussions with Regence that they would be willing to add on an additional year, so we’ll just have to see. The impact on the community is a big deal. I don’t want our event to be a negative to the community.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318, email@example.com