THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
When riders cross the finish line this afternoon in the Tour de Grandview Cycling Classic, a cycling-filled weekend will end 100 miles from where it started.
That isn't the length of the Grandview Heights races, now in their 19th year; it's the distance between the city and the starting line for another race that started the weekend, outside of Cincinnati.
Starting last year, three Ohio bicycle races pooled their hopes and resources. Race sponsors were hard to come by, and purses were dwindling. The Tour de Grandview and Cincinnati's Hyde Park Blast still were likely to survive, but to keep thriving, they required a shake-up. Independent preparation wasn't working.
"It can be difficult because you end up cannibalizing each other's events," said Julie Whitley, president of the Grandview Community Association, which organizes the local event.
And they did.
Registration was up 25 to 30 percent for each race in 2010, Grandview promoter Kirk Albers said.
"All three of them together, we coordinate marketing to draw some more elite riders and sort of mutually benefit each other," he said.
Now that the races' relationship is established, Albers said, he expected similar registration results this year, but he wouldn't have final numbers until today.
Previously, the Hyde Park Blast and Tour de Grandview competed for entrants, said Albers, a veteran of both and a two-time Grandview winner. With the new setup, cyclists can save on travel by hitting all three in a row.
And to go along with Grandview's $6,000 purse - $3,500 for the feature professional race - the best finishers in the tripleheader will have a shot at an additional lump of prize money, another incentive to enter all three.
North Royalton resident Paul Martin raced in each last year and is doing so again. A Tour de Grandview competitor since 1996, he said he appreciates the agreement.
"You're going to attract many riders from out of state when you have three races like this that are such high quality," said Martin, 38. "There are guys literally from around the world that are coming to race."
The winner of the 2009 Tour de Grandview, Emile Abraham, is from Trinidad and Tobago.
Though Martin likes the addition of Madeira, with its hairpin turns, his favorite of the three will always be Grandview. It's the hardest, he said, but it fits him.
"I've won there and had some success," said Martin, who rides as part of Team Panther, sponsored by Ohio-based Panther Expedited Services. "When you do a race at a place for 15 years in a row, you kind of figure out how to be successful there."