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The postponement of the Maryland Cycling Classic leaves many feeling disappointed

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Scott McGill, a professional cyclist who grew up and graduated from high school in Fallston, knew that competing in the Maryland Cycling Classic over the last two Labor Day weekends was equal parts joy and responsibility.

“It's one of the weekends where I get a lot of media attention, which isn't always the case,” he said with a laugh. “When racing in Europe we are usually the little fish in the big pond. But in this race it feels like I'm the big fish in the small pond. So it was a busy weekend trying to juggle all the media commitments while focusing on the race.”

McGill, who competes for Project Echelon Racing, will have to look elsewhere following Tuesday's news that this year's third edition of the Maryland Cycling Classic will be postponed. Organizers said the race was expected to take place again in 2025, but the delay caused frustration among people with ties to the cycling community.

“Obviously I'm tremendously disappointed,” said Joe Traill, owner of Joe's Bike Shop with stores in Fells Point and Mount Washington. “It is unfortunate that these events occurred at a relatively early stage. No one could imagine not holding the Preakness for whatever reason, in large part because it is so established. It is regrettable that we cannot imagine not organizing this race.”

The Maryland Cycling Classic is no ordinary event. It is the highest level road cycling race in the United States and is supported by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the sport's world governing body, which also supports the Tour de France, among others.

A representative for John Kelly, president of Kelly Benefits Strategies and chairman of the race, declined further comment. A representative for Al Hutchinson, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, did not respond to a request for comment.

When it debuted in 2022, the Maryland Cycling Classic drew an estimated 70,000 spectators. Last year's event on September 3 attracted an estimated 80,000 fans and nearly 800,000 livestream viewers – a 200% increase from 2022.

These numbers suggest that this year's September 1st race would have raised the bar even higher, and that's why the postponement felt like a flat tire.

“It's a huge disappointment that Baltimore can't host such a great event,” said Kris Auer, one of the organizers of the Charm City Cross, a UCI-sanctioned lower-tier race that will celebrate its 20th anniversary Sept. 28-29. Celebrates year anniversary. “It really showed how good cycling can be in Maryland, and it brought together a lot of people who never thought much about Baltimore in that regard, and really showed what Baltimore can do.”

Organizers cited various reasons for the postponement, including the participation of some cyclists in the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris and the “strain on existing resources and personnel” of Baltimore City and Baltimore County following the Key Bridge collapse.

McGill said he understood the decision given the tragedy.

“This is a main street that no longer exists,” he said. “People living on both sides of the bridge will have to change their routes and daily commute. Even though the race was on a Sunday and there might not have been as much traffic, it still could have played a role.”

Maryland Cycling Classic 2023

L39ION's Kyle Murphy (center) of Los Angeles tries to distance himself from the peloton during the 2023 Maryland Cycling Classic in North Baltimore County.

Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun

Kyle Murphy, center, of L39ION from Los Angeles, tries to distance himself from the peloton in North Baltimore County during the 2023 Maryland Cycling Classic. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)

Another reason was the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal, an international cycling event in Canada, held two weeks after the Maryland Cycling Classic instead of the usual week-long break.

“Sending a staff from Europe and spending extra time there like that, that's hotel, that's travel, that's food,” said Auer, who served as a mechanic for Europe-based Israel-Premier Tech during the first two Marylands had cycling classic races. “It's difficult coming from Europe to America, and if I were to manage a European team I would have to take a closer look at it. I think there would still have been some participation, but the Maryland Cycling Classic might not have had the quality of riders that they had the first year and that they would have gotten more of in the second year.”