OCEAN CITY – The internationally known Race Across America bicycle competition could be re-routing its finishing line to the beaches of Ocean City next year for their annual race from coast to coast. Although other locations are being looked at, Ocean City is one of the destinations being considered for the finishing city in the over 3,000-mile bicycle tour across the country.
Ocean City Public Relations Director Donna Abbott presented the idea to the Tourism Commission at last Thursday’s meeting, explaining that Race Across America had contacted her and expressed interest in changing the finishing point of next year’s race from Atlantic City, N.J. to Ocean City.
Race Across America began in 1982 and has become the longest running ultra-distance bicycle endurance competition in the world. The race usually begins in Oceanside, Calif. and finishes over 3,000 miles away on the east coast. For the past several years the race has ended in Atlantic City, but, according to Abbott, organizers want to move the finishing point to a more family-friendly town.
According to the Race Across America website, the competitors consist of cyclists spanning Tour de France racers and Olympic athletes to juveniles and septuagenarians.
Over the past 24 years, the race has been aired on ABC Wide World of Sports, ESPN, OLN, NBC, BBC and other stations around the world, which could prove to be advantageous for Ocean City, as the finish line is usually the most exciting part.
Abbott explained to the Tourism Commission that the event would be scheduled in June, which works as both a positive and a negative for Ocean City.
“There’s always an opportunity for more June events,” Abbott told the commission.
The downside is that the event occurs during the week of the Firemen’s Convention, with one of the days overlapping with the annual parade.
Despite the conflict, the race could bring both crowds and exposure to Ocean City. Abbott explained the bicyclists would be trickling into town over a three-day period. The event would bring 65 teams coupled with fans, who would need rooms in Ocean City and who would most likely enjoy the town for several days. The teams would need 80- to 90-room nights at a nearby hotel and three banquets consisting of 250 to 300 people. Abbott expects that 200 people would arrive that Tuesday, June 10, with 250 arriving Wednesday, 250 on Thursday and 150 on Friday.
The event could also bring visitors who have never been to Ocean City before, as 25 percent of the bicyclists are international with 50 percent coming from the west.
The commission discussed ways to make the event work in conjunction with the firemen’s parade, agreeing that having the bicyclists share the Inlet with the firemen could result in a lack of space.
Abbott explained that the race would require some sort of stage and celebration point at the finish line and that the racers wanted the beach to be the backdrop.
City Manager Dennis Dare suggested moving the finish line from the inlet to North Division Street. The bicyclists could ride over the Route 50 Bridge into town, through the arch on North Division Street and the Boardwalk and right out onto the sand.
The commission agreed that both the North Division Street idea and the race would be beneficial.
“It sounds like great publicity,” Commission member and Clarion Hotel owner Dr. Leonard Berger said.
The commission voted unanimously to support having the race come to Ocean City. The decision is not yet final, however, with Abbott having received no official confirmation from the race director as of Wednesday.