BY EDWARD de la FUENTE
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Maybe if the weather had cooperated and not given Cincinnati so much heat and humidity Saturday, the USA Cycling Elite National Championship road races would truly have been run without a hitch.
As it was, the downtown Cincinnati event was still viewed as a success, with more than 1,000 spectators turning out in both downtown and Eden Park. No matter that many of the streets on the east side of downtown had to be blocked off, a snarl that surprised more than a few drivers heading that way in the morning. Race volunteers ushered them onto alternate routes.
In the eyes of race organizers, Cincinnati proved to be capable of handling such an event. The course, caught on tape by ESPN (which will air the races on Aug. 25), wound through downtown, by Cinergy Field, over the Ohio River and back, and up the hills of Eden Park, as scenic a path as one can choose in the city.
"This sends a clear signal that Cincinnati has the wherewithal to host a national championship event," said Evan Call, managing director of USA Cycling. "They're beginning to establish a good track record."
More importantly, Cincinnati gets something to tack onto its resume as it attempts to bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
"This is a very important building block for the future," said Greater Cincinnati Sports and Events Commission president Nick Vehr, who is leading the city's Olympic effort. "The bottom line is that we pulled it off better than we thought we could."
But why cycling as the sport that starts the building process? Well, it helps that Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Loveland Mayor Lee Skierkiewicz (whose city is hosting today's criterium races) and Vehr are all cycling nuts.
Qualls is an avid cyclist and frequents the suburban Loveland Bike Trail, while Skierkiewicz hopes to build the country's first indoor velodrome in his city.
"I love cycling, I love to get on my bicycle," said Qualls, who was on hand Saturday for the awards presentations.
USA Cycling, the sport's national governing body, thought well enough of Cincinnati when this year's national championships were awarded to also designate the city a "Center for Cycling Excellence." Negotiations are underway to have the event back in Cincinnati for at least next year.
"I see this sport growing every year, it has a lot of potential," Skierkiewicz said. "I hope it's a done deal."