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Momentum builds as Portland preps bid for UCI Road World Championships

Posted by on May 7th, 2019 at 12:44 pm

(Graphic: Kevin Hyland)

For the past 12 months Portland resident Kevin Hyland has worked 40 hours a week on a big dream: He wants to bring the UCI Road World Championships to Portland in 2026.

Big crowds lined streets around the North Park Blocks for the 2011 Twilight Criterium race.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This major event is a jewel in professional cycling’s “Triple Crown” along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. It has been held every year since 1921 (except for a pause during World War II) and has only been on United States soil twice: in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1986 and in Richmond, Virginia in 2015.

“I’m not a racer, I’m just a guy who loves riding his bike,” Hyland shared with me during a recent conversation. He said he was inspired to embark on this quest during a ride with a friend who recently moved here from The Netherlands. “We live in such a beautiful place and we’re lucky to be able to ride,” Hyland recalls his friend saying. “I’m surprised we don’t have a major international bike race.”

Since that light bulb went off, Hyland has met with dozens of people. He has shared his vision with advocacy and nonprofit leaders, elected officials, government agency and tourism staffers, business owners, investors, and more. He’s gotten a long list of endorsements from notable Oregonians and bike racers. He’s assembled a team and has put together a 501c3 nonprofit organization that will run the event — and dole out proceeds to grassroots cycling programs statewide.

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“I’m convinced that the greater Portland area has the resources, know-how and passion for cycling, to successfully host the Cycling World Championships.”

While new to race organizing Hyland is a seasoned professional who knows his way around our city. A 50-year Portland resident, Hyland spent 35 years in sporting goods sales for companies like Nike, Gatorade, and Adidas.

Here’s his pitch: “I’m convinced that the greater Portland area has the resources, know-how and passion for cycling, to successfully host the Cycling World Championships. I also believe that this amazing event will bring the community together, re-energize the bike movement in the region, provide a lasting economic boost, and create global exposure for Portland and Oregon tourism, business development, and future athletic events.”

Hyland points to the success in Richmond. When they hosted the event in 2015, over 642,000 spectators from 29 countries took part in the 10 days of events and competitions and the event pumped $161 million into the regional economy.

It all sounds promising; but there’s still a lot of work to do. Hyland estimates he’d need thousands of volunteers to pull off the event. And then there’s the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), a group of experts that can handle the finances, legal issues, media relations, IT, and so on.

If Portland is chosen as host, the event would consist of 12 competitive races: Six road races and six individual time trials (where racers go against the clock). Course routes and start locations are still being ironed out (Hyland has met with leaders of the Portland police, transportation and and fire bureaus); but we know the road race would be about 80-140 miles long and would include the West Hills. Time trials would be on the east side and could be held on a major arterial. All events would finish on NW Naito Parkway.

In addition to the races, there would be ancillary events like live entertainment, festivals, and expos. The largest pro cycling teams from around the world would bring their team vehicles, superstar riders and devoted fans — all of which would add to the excitement.

Suffice it to say, Hyland and his team have a lot of work ahead of them.

Right now they’re putting together an initial bid that’s due January of next year. If the UCI accepts that, they’ll visit Portland to meet the Local Organizing Committee to see if we’re World Championship material. If they like what they see, a formal bid is due in July. The UCI will decide on the 2026 host city at their annual conference in September 2020.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Tom Hardy
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Tom Hardy

I am too old to compete anymore but I am open to volunteer Been riding all over Portland since 1953. I have survived railroad tracks, militant bad drivers, crashes, and literally every road in the west hills. I have ridden on every street and road between Astoria and Ashland and Seaside to Pendelton.

nuovorecord
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nuovorecord

OMG! This would be a great thing to happen in Portland! Let’s do it!

Jason H
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Jason H

I wish Kevin the best of luck, and if successful I’ll be one of the first to date my time. To call it an uphill climb would be an understatement though. Of the 4 times the World Championships have been in North America, 3 of them were on or near the east coast for logistics. The one that wasn’t, 1986 in Colorado Springs played off the recognition and existing European participation of the then massive Coors Classic (’86 was won by the badger himself, Bernard Hinault).

We would have a lot better chance if we had a major 1 day UCI race for a few years beforehand to raise awareness and show that the city will get behind the logistics. Wasn’t there one in the planning stages a few years back? One thing I can suggest is ironically for a cycling event, a car sponsor (electric by 2016 let’s hope). Because of the cost of bringing team vehicles, look what European teams do at the Tour of California, they drive vehicles from the race sponsor Lexus instead of their usual race follow cars and then rent coaches for the team and box trucks for the mechanics. Getting a big commitment early by a similar vehicle sponsor would make a difference. I think in ’86 BMW was a big sponsor of the Colorado Worlds as well.

Aside from worlds, one thing I’ve always thought would be cool would be if the Tour of California would be more like the TdF, and showcase different areas off the state and even region instead of the same old, same old Sacramento/LA Area and then reverse courses. Its never been north of Santa Rosa which is a third of the state! A version in the Humbolt/Siskyou region could even have a stage finishing in Medford, Grant’s Pass or Ashland. Or as a boost to pro cycling in Portland, work with the ToC organizing committee and just have a 1-2 day “grand depart” in Portland before a flight transfer to NorCal.

Jason H
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Jason H

Sorry, meant “donate my time”. And I meant Hinault won the ’86 Coors Classic, the Worlds were won by great classics rider Moreno Argentin.

Steve Scarich
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Steve Scarich

All good points. Transportation would be a major issue for most nations. There is not a single major bicycle race in the Northwest anymore. I have no idea the budget, but definitely need to raise millions of dollars. I do not see where that would possibly come from in PDX area. But, yes, promote a major one-day event to see if the will is there, before getting too ambitious. It’s too bad TOC is just a bit far to add an Oregon stage as a tease.

Champs
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Champs

It probably didn’t hurt that Richmond hired the UCI director’s brother to “consult” on its bid, either.

sswannab
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sswannab

Very well stated and why the Cyclocross Worlds have mainly been on the east coast as well. One can look to how businesses (ok Walton family who throw big $$ at cycling) and the government of Fayetteville Arkansas of all places, came together to bring CX Worlds back to the states in 2022

Ryan
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Ryan

Like the idea of trying to get a major 1-day race here. Only problem I see, is that the UCI calendar is pretty packed already for major races, seems like it would be harder to get big-name riders here (which you’d need in order to really build interest and lead to a world’s bid). If you can’t get the big names, it would be difficult to keep it going as teams likely won’t want to spend the money to get all the way over here for a 2nd- or 3rd-tier one day race.

I know similar things have been tried before, but I still think a 3-5 stage race would be most likely to work. Seems more cost-effective for teams to come over here for a multi-stage race, rather than one-and-done, and gives more opportunities to show off different areas. Maybe have one stage that starts or ends in Portland itself, show off the bridges. Do that on a Sunday to reduce community impact. Have the other stages be more around the periphery of the metro area; I figure the costs/logistics would be easier if you can travel along less-crowded roads. But seriously, how cool would that be? A stage that crosses all of Portland’s bridges, with a finishing sprint down Naito. Uphill finishes at Crown Point or Timberline. A grinding TT up Larch Mountain 😀

SilkySlim
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SilkySlim

This would be awesome. Not sure if this is too puny for international cycling stars, but I’d kill to see a time trial course that goes from Naito over Hawthorne, through Ladds to Lincoln, finishing at peak of Tabor.

Candi Murray
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Candi Murray

All of the proposed courses have the same finish. Naito Blvd.

Dan A
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Dan A

Is there a link somewhere?

sswannab
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sswannab

I remember a few years ago when a time trial stage of the Mt. Hood Classic was on Naito which was fun to watch including all the amped up Rock Racing dudes 🙂

Chris I
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Chris I

Would they have to stop at the stop signs?

Tom Hardy
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Tom Hardy

Much better time trial would be Naito, Main, Vista, Humphrey, Skyline, Thompson, Cornell, Lovejoy, 14th, Naito. All vertical! Plenty of challenges. Lots of vegetation but not nice for arial viewing.

Dolan Halbrook
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Dolan Halbrook

So many great backroad for a RR course. Rock Creek, Sauvie, Tickle Creek. Plenty of possibilities. TT would probably be Hwy 30. Maybe that way someone would be motivated to clean off all the debris 🙂

But I agree, a major one day race would be a huge win in and of itself.

Toby Keith
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Toby Keith

Put it in east PDX.

Doug
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Doug
James Rainey
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James Rainey

Portland Sucks. Portland has a tendency to ruin a lot of good things. UCI committee, you do not want to come to Portland.

onegearsneer
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onegearsneer

If we can’t get cyclocross worlds to Portland I see no way for road worlds to even be considered by the UCI let alone be on the short list. Good luck though!

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

We can’t get mountain biking in one of the largest city parks in the country, but we can shut down the roads for the UCI World Championships? Seems unlikely to me, but I’d love to see either come true.

CV
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CV

I wonder if there will be a women’s race? No mention of it.

Dave
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Dave

There would be a women’s massed start race as well as a womens time trial–that’s the standard UCI road worlds program.

Vince
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Vince

The premiere UCI event held in an area that set up its own racing organization in part because the UCI sanctioned national organization was, well, lacking in many ways? Classic.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

The lingering feud between USA Cycling and OBRA won’t help with this. USAC might be reluctant to back it.

Belynda
Guest
Belynda

When I lived in Boulder they had big bike races that attracted racers, whose aggressive riding inspired so much car driver hostility that riding in Denver was actually safer.

Liz
Guest
Liz

how does UCI “celebrate diversity,” exactly when they continue to employ cis whyt men that use their positions as announcers to make sexist and racist comments?

Don
Guest
Don

The World Championships is not part of a ‘triple crown’. The TDF, Giro, and Vuela a España comprise the three ‘grand tours’ or in your vernacular the triple crown. That being said, I can imagine a hilltop finish of the road race at Council Crest! Let’s do this!