Mt. Hood Cycling Classic has signed a new title sponsor, Indie Hops, to help rebuild its foundation as one of the top stage races in the United States, after last year’s economic downturn nearly sunk the race. Organisers will host a Pro/Am six-day stage race this year while it works hard to rejoin USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar (NRC) in 2011.
“The connection is Roger Worthington, one of the Indie Hops partners, alongside Jim Solberg,” said Chad Sperry, one of the race’s organisers. “They put this company together in May 2009 and they are huge cycling fans. Roger is an accomplished road racer who won the masters race last year at Mt. Hood which boasted one of the toughest fields on the west coast. They are just starting this company and looking for some great marketing opportunities. Bikes and beer go hand-in-hand in this area, so it was a perfect fit.
“We are looking forward to going back on the NRC next year and working hard to bring the race back up,” Sperry said. “In hindsight if we knew last year we would have what we have now with Indie Hops, then we would have applied to be on the NRC for 2010.”
This year marks the eighth annual Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, to be held from June 2-7 around Portland, Oregon. It is famous for its Columbia Gorge time trial and challenging Mt. Hood and Mt. Tabor mountaintop finishes. The tough course was made even tougher with the addition of a new mountaintop finish on Mt. Adam, which crosses into Washington State. The organisation will also offer a separate category two men’s event that will run on the same route and the Pro/Am.
“It’s the gorge; this is a racers race,” Sperry said. “We have a modest prize list but the riders love to come and compete because the Hood River is so beautiful and the roads are so great with lots of mountains. Riders love it and that has kept us going in bleak times. We knew if we could survive last year and this year we will be back with a strong presence. Now we will grit our teeth to make it through tough times and come back to the NRC next year.”
Since its inception in 2001, Mt Hood has been a member of the NRC on four occasions from 2004-2008 along with added prestige to the women’s field with International Cycling Union (UCI) status in 2008. Last year’s economic downturn forced the event’s organiser to take the race out of the NRC due to a lack of funding and a struggle to find new sponsorship.
“In 2009 the economy and market dropped out, especially in Oregon and Portland was hit extraordinarily hard,” Sperry said. “The marketing dollars we had from Portland in 2008 were just gone in 2009. We literally saw a gigantic decrease in revenue and support. We had to decide to go smaller and drop off the NRC because we couldn’t afford it.
“Our philosophy is that even though we are off the NRC this year, we are still running it like a full NRC event with rolling enclosure, officials, media and prize money. It will have a full look and feel of an NRC race,” he added.
Sperry noted that the event would not organise a women’s race this year because of conflicts on the race calendar with the Liberty Classic, the only remaining UCI race left for women in the US and Tulsa Tough, a three-day stage race. However Sperry has plans to bring the women’s stage race back to the NRC level in 2011, along with the professional men.
“We made the tough decision to postpone the women’s race this year and bring it back next year, simple because of scheduling conflicts,” Sperry said. “There are so few women’s elite and pro teams that you can’t split the field up. We have plans for the women’s race set in place for next year and we will continue to grow and push that back up to what it was in 2008.”