For the first time in nearly 40 years, the one event that most solidifies Central Oregon as a cycling hotbed will not take place.

The Cascade Cycling Classic — North America’s longest-running road cycling stage race — has been canceled this year and will return in 2019 for its 39th edition, according to the new management of the race.

This year the multiday race was scheduled for May 31-June 3, instead of its typical mid-July dates.

The Cascade classic was previously operated by Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation as a fundraiser, but increasing costs, traffic concerns and other conflicts in the heart of summer forced the foundation to look for another owner. Also, 11-year race director Chad Sperry stepped down after the 2017 classic.

That prompted concerns about the future of one of Central Oregon’s signature sporting events. But in December, Visit Bend stepped in as the main stakeholder, and Bart Bowen, of Bend-based Bowen Sports Performance, took over as the new race director.

Initial plans called for continuing the race in 2018 without interruption. However, Bowen and Visit Bend concluded that a one-year break is in the best interest of the race. Organizers were working with a compressed timeline, trying to plan an event in six months when it normally takes a year, he said.

“It’s unfortunate, but we want to make sure that we put on a great event our first time and keep the standards that it’s been held to,” Bowen said. “It was just the best decision to postpone for one year. All the work we’ve done at this point isn’t wasted; we just have to keep plugging along and get there.”

Racers who had already registered for 2018 will receive full refunds, as will race sponsors, according to Visit Bend.

Bend’s Worthy Brewing Co. signed on as the title sponsor for the 2018 race in late January, and Worthy owner Roger Worthington said Tuesday he is committed to continuing to support the Cascade.

“I’m disappointed the race won’t take place in 2018, but Worthy Brewing is passionate about the Cascade Cycling Classic as one of Bend’s premier events, and we want to see it continue,” Worthington said in a statement released by Visit Bend. “We plan to remain the title sponsor in 2019, and we look forward to seeing the race return stronger than ever.”

With the title sponsor still on board, the concern was not about financial backing of the race, Bowen said, but the lack of time for the immense amount of planning and logistics that go into a cycling stage race, including organizing police support and obtaining permits from various government agencies. This year’s race was scheduled to include two road races, a time trial, and the downtown Bend criterium — that is also the plan for the 2019 race, with perhaps the addition of a circuit race,, Bowen said, adding that two races would need to take place on the same day.

Bowen said the 2019 race will be held in late spring, as was planned for 2018. His most immediate goal is to confirm the 2019 dates so racers and cycling enthusiasts can put them on their calendars. He said the race will be four days instead of five days.

The race, according to Bowen, will include pro, amateur and junior categories for men and women, but it will not be sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI) as it was last year for the pro men and the past two years for the pro women. Instead, the Cascade will return to a USA Cycling-sanctioned event with equal prize purses for men and women. Controversy arose last year when it was revealed that the prize purses for the pro men were substantially larger than those for the pro women.

Worthy announced its sponsorship in late January, but at that point Bowen had just four months until the scheduled dates of the race. Bowen said it was hard to move forward with the planning process until he knew they had the financial backing of a title sponsor.

“You don’t want to start reserving too much until you know you have the money to back it up,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces. It’s not like you pick up the phone and you get all those moving pieces in a week. It takes time. You need a year of planning to really go through the whole process.”

For more information, visit www.cascade-classic.org.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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