By Peter Madsen • The Bulletin

For more information on hosting a bike racing team during the Cascade Cycling Classic, visit Host housing information will be available in mid-January.

When the Gullicksons hosted the professional Hincapie Racing team during the 2013 Cascade Cycling Classic, a five-day road cycling race, they were caught off-guard.

Not only had the members of the 14-person squad taken over Holly Gullickson’s kitchen with food bags, they walked freely through her home in skin-tight, aerodynamic spandex — normal attire for a bicycle race — and less common for a family that occasionally rides mountain bikes.

“I thought, ‘Um, do you maybe want to wear something that isn’t quite so tight?’” Gullickson, 44, recalled with a laugh.

Bend families have opened their homes and cleared space in their refrigerators — and garages and driveways — for visiting bike racing teams each summer since the Cascade Cycling Classic began in 1979.

About 80 Bend households are made available each year, with as many as 94 hosts participating in 2017, the most recent year the race was held, according to officials.

New hosts are always welcome to get involved, said race director Bart Bowen, who now steers the race.

The 2019 CCC is scheduled to run from May 31 to June 2.

Potential hosts should make sure they have enough room in their homes to accommodate more than a dozen people.

Those with smaller spaces who are still interested in hosting can take on a few riders whose team may be headquartered at a different home. Hosts should brace for the constant use of their kitchens and bathrooms.

More than sharing space

Hosting is not only a nice thing to do, but it’s also a great way to gain front-row access to the race.

“The families who host are more into the race,” Bowen said. “They have someone to cheer for.”

The Gullicksons and members of the Hincapie Racing team have become so close they describe each other in familial terms.

Thomas Craven, Hincapie Racing’s chief sports director, said host families get brought into the team’s fold.

“For our team, there’s no line between staff and rider. That line then gets further blurred by being with a host family,” said Craven, adding that the team relies on 15 hosts throughout the country. “In the case of the Gullicksons, they’re there for the breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’re there for the team meetings, the happiest parts, the sad parts and the angry parts, like if someone messed up or didn’t do what they wanted to do.”

The Gullicksons watched the Hincapie team grow from a mid-pack team to the overall series winners from 2014 to 2017, Craven said.

“They’ve been party to a few of our late-night parties,” Craven, 54, said with a chuckle. “It’s been a good time out there.”

Professional racer and former Hincapie member Robin Carpenter, 26, was a newbie on the Hincapie team when they stayed with the Gullicksons in 2013.

In the following years, the family watched Carpenter snag second place in the overall individual series in 2015 and win it in 2016 and 2017.

“With hosts you stay with on a regular basis, which happens a lot, you form a pretty strong bond,” Carpenter said. “It was great to see the Gullicksons learn more about the sport and take pride in us doing well. I feel like I could go visit them any time and it would be like visiting an old friend, which is one of the unique things about (bike racing). It draws a lot of people together from different backgrounds that you might not expect.”

During each year of the Cascade Cycling Classic, the Gullicksons’ NorthWest Crossing home transforms into the headquarters for Hincapie Racing.

Around daybreak, members of the eight-person racing team, along with about half a dozen staffers, which included the race director, chef, mechanic and soigneurs (similar to masseuses), would stream into the Gullicksons’ kitchen, where mountains of food crowded the center island and an espresso machine incessantly hissed.

“They always brought their own espresso machine and coffee,” Holly Gullickson said with a chuckle. “It was hilarious.”

Riders would spend mornings stretching out on furniture and snacking while watching live coverage of the Tour de France (in previous years, the CCC was held later in the summer).

“We’d have these skinny little guys consuming massive amounts of food — bacon, pancakes, fruit — it was nuts,” Gullickson said, adding that the team would tuck into bed around dusk. “They were so quiet you wouldn’t even know they were in the house.”

Throughout the race, Hincapie Racing’s RV and other vehicles resided on the Gullicksons’ driveway and street.

Team staffers set up a bike-washing station underneath a collapsible tent. Some aspects of professional bike racing can strike the uninitiated as odd.

“Sometimes it was funny to watch their reactions to things,” Carpenter said. “We would do massages … that’s always something that’s funny to witness … it’s good-natured entertainment to people who haven’t witnessed that thing before.”

Gullickson recalled a neighbor who was upset by the stream of scantily-clad men receiving massages one after another on her family’s side porch.

“This was the part we weren’t expecting,” said Gullickson, who’s a physical therapist. “I think the rest of the neighbors were not” accustomed to seeing bodies.

The Gullickson children, who were in grade school when the pro team began staying at their home, were initially disappointed their parents weren’t hosting the now-defunct Jelly Belly Cycling team.

Since then, the kids have warmed to the team.

Their love of racing rubbed off on Hayden Gullickson, now 13, who has begun racing cyclocross.

Craven, who raced professionally until 2011, and Carpenter became fascinated with cycling as boys when their parents hosted bike racing teams in their respective homes.

Along for the ride

The Gullicksons sometimes rode in the team car that zoomed among other team cars and riders during the road stages. It’s an exciting way to spectate, Gullickson said.

“You’re in there listening to the team radio and the mechanic is shoved in there next to 12 extra tires, the bikes are on top and the team driver is cursing and following along,” Gullickson said. “It was really cool. You learn how the race works.”

The Gullicksons and Craven are still in touch, even though the Hincapie team won’t be competing in this year’s race due to a scheduling conflict.

“There’s a relationship that goes back and forth. (Holly) texts me when the Seahawks are beating the Panthers,” said Craven, who’s from North Carolina. “We have a relationship outside of cycling, which is kind of funny. We’re all buddies. And they follow the riders as they get better or take a different path. It goes both ways.”

Carpenter has moved from the Hincapie Racing team to the Rally Cycling team and is unsure whether his team will race this year.

Still, Carpenter said he’d drop by the Gullicksons if he were ever passing through Bend.

“I’d definitely come by for dinner and catch up,” Carpenter said. “I wouldn’t want to miss out on that, for sure.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7816,