Doubts about whether North America's oldest professional stage race would return for 2018 were answered this week when the Cascade Cycling Classic announced it will be back under new management and with different dates on the calendar.
The Bend Bulletin reported this week that the race will return for a 39th run next year, moving from its traditional mid-July date to a new schedule from May 31 through June 3.
Former professional rider and two-time US pro road race champion Bart Bowen will take over management of the event from the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, a non-profit group that operated the race as a fundraiser, according to the Bulletin.
Bowen, who will also replace Chad Sperry's Breakaway Promotions as race director, teamed up with Visit Bend to assume management of the event and keep the race afloat, according to the local newspaper's report.
The race's future was called into question earlier this year over rising concerns about increased costs to produce the event and traffic conflicts in fast-growing Bend. The race's former July dates also conflicted with the height of the city's influx of tourists and other summer-time events, adding more stress to an already extended community.
"Had Visit Bend not stepped in, I believe the race would be gone," MBSEF events director Molly Cogswell-Kelley told the Bulletin on Wednesday.
The Bulletin also reported that the race will not be sanctioned by the UCI next year as it was in 2017 for the men and the past two years for the women, but it will be sanctioned by USA Cycling. The race is not currently listed on USA Cycling's Pro Road Tour calendar, however.
Bowen, who lives in Bend, won the Cascade Cycling Classic overall in 1993 and told the Bulletin that the race was one of the driving factors in his choice to move to Bend.
"I had raced it previously," he said. "I remembered it then, and I wanted to move somewhere where there was a race, and Bend was high on my list. Now it's kind of come full circle. I want to try to keep the race going. And we want to try to get back to more of the grass roots of why we love racing.
"One of my big goals with the Classic is to introduce a junior aspect to the race," he said. "That's a big goal to make it sustainable in the future."
The race's new dates will conflict with USA Cycling Pro Road Tour events the Glencoe Grand Prix on June 2 and the UCI 1.1 Independence Cycling Classic in Philadelphia on June 3. The Winston-Salem Classic takes place in North Carolina just three days before the Cascade Classic starts, but Bowen told the Bulletin he believes a substantial prize list – equal for both men and women – and the race's reputation for challenging routes will draw a top field.
"Our goal is to draw those aspiring pros," Bowen said, "and put more on the line every day in prize money. How do we make this exciting every day for those on both sides of the fence, people watching and people racing?"
Bowen also told the Bulletin that he expects to reconfigure the nature of the race routes from years past, although he would not rule out a stage with a mountain-top finish.
"I'm pretty confident that what we put together will attract riders who like to race in Bend," he told the Bulletin. "[The mountain roads] will potentially have snowbanks, but we really feel that's going to be a cool aspect of the race."
Bowen also said he hopes to make changes to the fan-favoutite downtown criterium and reconfigure a more spectator-friendly version of the iconic Awbrey Butte Circuit Race, Cascade's traditional final stage on a course that has been used for multiple national championships.