Less than 24 hours after news broke of the North End Classic’s cancellation, rider outcry was so adamant that Mike Miller just had to find a way to put the race back on.
Miller, the president of Yuma Athletics, formerly Yuma Bike Club, re-submitted the permit to USA Cycling and took the reins of organizing the race, which is back on for Saturday, Jan. 16 in downtown Yuma.
“After many phone calls and meetings with the City of Yuma, it is amazing the support that every person has given in order to make the NEC possible,” Miller said. “When I read the articles from Clipped In I do believe that the riders will come to Yuma and ride.”
Miller said USA Cycling’s rule change that did away with race organizer certification was pivotal in being able to put the race back on, but he said he can’t do it alone.
“I will call on as many people as I can to help make this event possible,” Miller said. “I as one person will not be able to do this; it will have to be a team effort.”
The Yuma crit, dubbed the North End Classic, includes a downtown city course with a short, steep ascent between the start line and the first turn and a chicane through a city government parking lot before winding through more city streets. Last year the race attracted spectators thanks to a beer garden in the center of the course.
“It was great to hear that the Yuma crit was back on,” said Terrell Brown, a Cat 4 rider from Team Santini USA. “[I] was talking about it with some other friends at our weekly [West Valley Crit] who said they had planned to sign up. I personally am going to stop taking these races for granted and start signing up early to show support for them as much as possible.”
In late December the crit’s original organizer Brian Bell pulled the race from the calendar citing more fees from the City of Yuma and lack of early registrations, according to an email Bell sent to the Arizona Bicycle Racing Association.
Bell also said a big issue with the race is the far drive from Phoenix and Tucson and being early in the race season, he said in an email to Clipped In.
Yuma asked the race organizers to cover $800 worth of portable toilets and $150 for barricades for the upcoming race, said Miriam Limon, a city of Yuma spokeswoman. She said the city would still cover the costs of police officers and traffic control.
In 2015, the city covered all of those expenses, which totaled more than $19,500, Limon said.
“The City of Yuma has always been a huge supporter of the North End Classic from its humble beginnings and continues to be so even today,” said Yuma deputy city administrator Ricky Rinehart in a statement to Clipped In. “The excitement of professional as well as amateur bicycle racing brings to the streets of our community another opportunity to showcase Yuma’s hospitality, quality events and our perfect riding weather.”
Limon said she and city officials were surprised when being cited as one of the reasons for canceling the event.
Miller said the costs for the portable toilets and barricades will be covered.
One of the other main reasons for the cancellation – lack of rider registrations – is an issue that plagues much of bicycle racing, Iuliano said.
“Most people wait until ‘a few more sign up’ before doing so themselves,” Iuliano said.
Reiley Pankratz (Canyon Elite Women’s Racing) said she registers at the last minute because of so many variables that affect whether she will race.
“Even if I’m planning on it, things like crashes in training or getting sick can always pop up,” Pankratz said. “If I register late, then I’m not out the race entry fee if for some reason I can’t make it to the race. It seems like there is more reward than risk for registering late.”
Iuliano said many riders feel the same way, and early registration is a tough situation because promoters need to know how many riders to expect and the reassurance they aren’t out a ton of cash.
“The only ones that don’t have the issue of late registration are the big bucket-list events like Whiskey Off Road, Ice Man Cometh, etc.,” Iuliano said. “So the question is, what’s the difference and how do we make local events more popular and enticing?”