RIDING ALONG COLUMBIA VIEW DRIVE above The Dalles Dam, Mt Hood Cycling Classic competitors ride in the Columbia Hills Road Race in an earlier competition.
Contributed photo/Pat Malach
After 10 years of operating one of the top bicycle races in the country, the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic will be closing up after this year’s event.
The event, which began back in 2003, ascended to the number one ranked race of the National Racing Circuit in 2008 before being hit hard by the economic times.
Lack of sponsorship dollars, difficulty in finding volunteers, and recent declines in registration numbers have resulted in the organization having to shut its doors.
“This event and the community support have been tremendous over the years,” said race director and owner Chad Sperry. “Unfortunately, in the past three years we have been unable to secure a title sponsor and have continued to see a decline financially with the event bringing us to a point where we can no longer feasibly run it; 100 percent of the revenue from this event went back into the event and into the volunteer grant program which gave money to a number of the athletic and nonprofit groups in Hood River, The Dalles and throughout the gorge, so there is no buffer to withstand any kind of a decrease.”
Over the past 11 years, 4,675 racers have attended the Classic, representing 21 countries. They have included 16 national champions and eight Olympic gold medalists. The event has contributed $24,500 to local high school athletics and nonprofit groups.
Before the event closes up, the race will return June 21-23, in The Dalles for two stages. The Stage 1 Columbia Hills Road Race will start at Calvary Baptist Church at 9 a.m. Friday, June 21, and take athletes out into the rolling wheat country east of The Dalles. Riders will make laps on the Emerson Loop and Eightmile loop before coming back to the finish on Columbia View Drive just east of the Veterans Home.
Stage 2, the Scenic Gorge Time Trial, pits individual riders against the famous gorge winds June 22. The race starts at 8 a.m. at the Discovery Center and riders will race one at a time from The Dalles to Hood River on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The finish will be located at the west end of the Mark Hatfield Trail in Hood River.
Those wanting to catch the action up close can watch cyclists race through the city streets of Hood River at the Stage 3 Downtown Hood River Criterium. Racing will begin at 4 p.m. and conclude with the Pro Men at 7:30 p.m. The course will run around Full Sail Brewing on Columbia, Wasco, and Industrial. Music, expo, food and beer garden are all on tap to keep the fun rolling. The tight technical course will test rider’s fitness and bike handling skills.
The fourth and final stage will start at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort and finish at Cooper Spur Ski area high on Mt. Hood’s northern flanks. The race will drop down into the Hood River Valley before ascending deep into the Mt. Hood National Forest. Three major climbs and miles of technical roads await the riders. Racing begins at 10 a.m. and concludes at 1:30 p.m. Those who want to participate but are not high caliber racers have the option of riding the Tour de Hood. This recreational tour starts at 8 a.m. at Cooper Spur and follows the same course the pros will race on. Well stocked aid stations, great support and a fabulous BBQ await pariticpants as well as one of the most scenic bike courses in the country.