Centurion cycling event canceled for 2012

2012-01-29T08:13:00Z 2012-01-29T14:16:06Z Centurion cycling event canceled for 2012ROB SCHULTZ | Wisconsin State Journal | rschultz@madison.com | 608-252-6487 madison.com

They were hoping to attract 3,000 cyclists each year but never got more than 1,200 registered. They were hoping for great Wisconsin weather but the races got battered by storms. They were hoping to infuse $1.2 million into the area's economy but ended up infusing next to nothing.

Representatives of Centurion Cycling, who had high hopes for their large-scale bike race out of Middleton that they referred to as a one-day Tour de France type of event, have canceled for 2012.

Organizers also haven't made any promises of returning the event — which featured 25-, 50- and 100-mile races — in future years.

"It was tough to gain any momentum and get it to grow where we wanted it to grow. It was a regrettable decision," said Centurion's U.S. race director Tim Hyland.

Centurion held the event based in Middleton in each of the past two years but weather messed up plans both times.

Hyland said about 1,200 registered to race but just 701 participated in the August 2010 event the year that severe weather early in the day washed out the 100-mile race. In 2011, about 1,100 registered to race and 702 participated. Morning storms delayed the start of the 100-mile race, and heat and humidity plagued the cyclists once the storms left the area.

"We didn't cover expenses," said Hyland, who added it cost "deep into six figures" annually to put on the event. Participants in the 100-mile race pay about $120 to enter.

"We didn't have the expectation that we're going to rake in all sorts of money out of the gate," Hyland said. "But at the same time, two races with storms like that doesn't make it a lot easier."

Hyland didn't try to hide his disappointment that one of the largest cycling events to be held in Wisconsin did not pan out. The race is based on European-style large-scale races on a professional course. In Wisconsin, amateur and professional cyclists pedaled through the steep climbs of western Dane County.

The event was the creation of Ironman North America founder Graham Fraser, who started the Centurion races in 2010 and gave them an Ironman feel with their support and attention to detail. The event at the Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario has been the most successful with more than 3,500 participants last year, Hyland said.

Three new races — one in Ontario and two in New York — are on Centurion's schedule for 2012 along with the one at Blue Mountain.

While Middleton tourisim officials expected the event to infuse $1.2 million into the area's economy when it debuted in 2010, Val Steele, Middleton's director of tourism, said the event's economic impact "wasn't a whole lot.

"Most people came into the race for the day and left," she added. "Even going to the three-day weekend, they didn't generate much for motel rooms."

Mark Opitz, Middleton's assistant planning director, participated in the races both years and came away impressed both times.

"It was very well organized. We thought it was special to the community, to the region and it was something we were eagerly anticipating occuring again this year," he said.

But it wasn't unique enough to make enough cyclists change their plans from participating in many other events held around the same time. For instance, the Bike MS: Best Dam Bike Ride out of Pewaukee was on the same August weekend as Centurion's races last year, while the popular Dairyland Dare out of Dodgeville was just two weeks later.

"There's no doubt that we have a lot of (cycling) opportunities now, and some of those opportunities don't cost as much, too. But I thought Centurion's was a very reasonable fee," Opitz said.

Hyland, who lives in the Madison area, hopes the event returns. "I guarantee you that nobody wants that race here more than I do, but at some point you have to make a business decision, too," he said.

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