Centurion Cycling will hold a series of three mass-participation bicycle events in the US in 2010. Event organisers Len Pettyjohn and Graham Fraser are promising a triathlon-style fun-for-all feel.
At first glance, the series’ lengthy and challenging courses resemble the increasingly popular Italian-style Grand Fondo.
Each weekend of racing will kick off with a 40km family ride on Saturday followed by challenging 80km and 100km races on Sunday. Each event will get progressively more difficult, with 8,500ft to 12,000ft of climbing.
“We think of it as a category of Ironman events and not really a Grand Fondo,” said Pettyjohn. “Graham has an attention to detail in managing these types of events. It’s a North American take on a Grand Fondo and we tweaked it a bit for a North American audience.”
Pettyjohn has a long history of promoting cycling events and is best known for his work with the CyberBike indoor race program and the former Saturn Classics. He is also recognised for his managerial role with US-based professional cycling teams Coors Light and the Toyota-United. Fraser is CEO of North Amercian Sports Inc, organisers of 10 Ironman events. He will provide funding to back the new series.
“A company called me to do Grand Fondo in the USA,” Pettyjohn said. “But it was difficult to raise money last year with the economic troubles. We heard Graham was in the process of selling his Ironman events, except for Ironman Canada. He was thinking of doing something purely cycling so we met last January and thought about working together.”
The series begins in Boulder-Lyons, Colorado on 17-18 July. It then moves to Madison, Wisconsin on 7-8 August, with the finale on 11-12 September at Mammoth Lakes, California. Registered participants will be seeded by age, with timing chips used to calculate finishing times.
“We want to have a comparative standard because, like running, it’s really about personal records and personal bests,” Pettyjohn said. “There are millions of people who ride bikes and we want to create a series of events, a championships event and a points series, among the various categories. We are going to be participant driven, similar to a triathlon or a marathon. They are the only two that can support themselves by registrant fees.”
The Centurion Cycling Series offers a $30,000 prize list spread across each category along with awards and certificates. “It’s very important to the participants to give them something meaningful to achieve and strive for,” Pettyjohn said. “We will have closed roads, good food and help the participants to feel like they are apart of a big event. We will have police escorts, announcers and recognition for what they have accomplished.”
Mass-start group rides and races like the Grand Fondo and the Centurion Cycling Series are becoming popular in the US with nine Grand Fondo set to take place next year, a sharp contrast to the two offered in 2009. Some 3,500 cyclists are expected to register for each of the Centurion Cycling events. Pettyjohn anticipates a growing popularity over the next three to five years, where participation could reach as high as 10,000.
“I think they will be popular and it is a matter of people hearing about them and seeing more of them,” Pettyjohn said. “It’s the idea of doing something really epic. We want to be inclusive because we realise we don’t have a mass audience of cyclist fans like Europe.”