If there was ever any doubt that Bend can host and be party to a great sports event, it was laid to rest on Sunday at the U.S. National Cyclocross (Cross) Championships. The venue, racing and crowds were terrific. And from an outsider’s point of view it looked as if the event organization was close to flawless.
Of course there is the sport of Cross which luckily, unlike bicycle road racing, is easy for non-cyclists to understand and more intriguing to them because the racing is over mud and ice and gook and…well you know it’s a dirty world out there for Cross racers.
Dirty for riders but apparently profitable for local merchants, restaurants and lodging establishments. Speaking of the latter, I know of two local vacation home rental businesses that rented every property on their books to Cross teams and people here to watch the races.
The event’s major sponsors seemed happy. I ran into Deschutes Brewing chief Gary Fish at the Saturday races and he was effusive in his praise for the event. Looking over the part of the course laid out on the Brewery property he laughed: “it’ll give our landscapers something to work on this spring.”
Best of all, there was a lot of good energy at the races-Bend energy. Locals came out to support the riders with their cheers, support local food vendors with their purchases and welcome athletes from all over the country.
What struck many longtime Bend people interested in self-propelled sports is the change in attitude among our local tourism agencies regarding outdoor sports events. Time was when their attitude towards self-propelled sports and events featuring those sports was patronizing at best. Sports to them were golf and shopping. Honestly, shopping was always a top tourism priority.
Thankfully at least one new person in the tourism promotion game, Doug Laplaca of Visit Bend, knows the value of events like the Cross nationals, the national road cycling championships and the Cascade Cycling Classic.
Now how about trying for the national cross-country running championships, the national mountain bike championships, etc? Bend has the potential of becoming the go-to self-propelled sports events capitol of the U.S.