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Officials of the Maryland Cycling Classic the country’s top one-day bike race, will announce today that the event, scheduled for September 5, will again be postponed until next year. A number of post-pandemic challenges factored into the decision, including uncertainties about the status of international travel restrictions for athletes. The inaugural running of the event had originally been planned for the Labor Day weekend of 2020, but was postponed due to COVID.
At least three WorldTour teams including Trek-Segafredo and Team BikeExchange had been scheduled to race the event. There were also two ProTeam level squads scheduled to race the event, including American-based Rally Cycling, along with several U.S. continental teams. However, as travel and quarantine complications have continued between Europe, the United States and Canada, and other parts of the world, most of the European-based professional teams have been faced with increasingly challenging scheduling and logistics challenges. Given those challenges, as well as changing race dates, team managers have struggled with deciding which events to attend and where they will actually be able to travel, especially if it involves trans-oceanic expeditions.
The race had originally been scheduled to start north of Baltimore, head south through the rolling hills of Baltimore and Howard counties, and after several circuits through the city and the downtown Inner Harbor area, and finish in the famed Fells Point area. Race organizers, as well as the city and state, conceived and anticipated the event as a means of showcasing the city and its lively downtown hub. Various accompanying events were to include a health and wellness festival, a public charity ride, a community outreach program on bike education and participation, various forums and public discussion events, and a new hospitality and experiential platform. However, with ongoing uncertainty around mass events in Maryland, the planning of these programs was made very difficult, according to race insiders.
“From the beginning, our aspirations have been a world-class professional cycling race in the state of Maryland,” said event chairman John Kelly, a Baltimore-area business leader who is president of Kelly Benefits Strategies. “You only have one chance to make a first impression and we want to do things right. There are multiple factors in this difficult decision, mainly hinging on post-COVID challenges.”
The earlier-announced cancellation of the two Canadian WorldTour-level races – the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal – originally scheduled to take place the following weekend, probably also complicated things for some WorldTour teams. The costs, scheduling challenges, and logistics of getting a full team across the Atlantic might have been reduced if they would be able to participate in all three events. This scheduling synergy was a factor in the original scheduling of the Maryland Cycling Classic.
Despite this setback, the management of the race remains upbeat about the future and is clearly determined to bring a world-class event to Maryland as soon as circumstances allow. “We remain committed to building a world-class event for everyone to enjoy here in Maryland. We thank all our key partners that have stuck with us during this difficult time,” said Terry Hasseltine, the president of the Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland, which owns the event. The event is produced by Medalist Sports and KOM Sports, and it will once again apply to the UCI to be qualified as part of its ProSeries races in 2022. This will make it the highest-rated pro race in the country.
The event’s primary sponsor, UnitedHealthCare, is sticking with the event despite the disappointments of having to postpone the race the last two years. The City of Baltimore is also standing behind the event, with the Visit Baltimore tourism promotion agency saying, “We remain excited to bring the race to Baltimore and look forward to our continued partnership in 2022.” Finally, race chairman Kelly ensured bike racing fans and the local public that “We will be back bigger and better in 2022.”
More information about the event can be found at www.marylandcyclingclassic.us.