Goodbye Providence, Hello Thompson!
We hope you are enjoying summer. But we know you are also getting ready for New England’s best season, autumn. This means crisp nights, turning leaves, and the “real” season: cyclo-cross.
In 2005 we walked into Roger Williams Park in Providence and found what, we believed to be, the greatest ‘cross venue in America. In that era we were right. Due to the overwhelming support of folks like you we developed Providence into one of the nation’s biggest and most prestigious cycling events. Thank you.
We realized this past spring, however, that we had exceeded the capacity of that park and, frankly, that entire city. We heard your comments on parking and lodging and crime. And despite our generating more than $2 million of economic impact each year the city steadily raised every fee and restriction to levels that could only be described as prohibitive. We would have had to raise entry fees by $20 to remain there. We did not want to do that to our customers.
We believe that UCI cyclo-cross in America has outgrown public parks and school grounds. We have gone big-time.
After we saw the UCI World Championships on the Circuit Zolder race track in Belgium, Mark Gunsalus suggested we check out the Thompson Motor Speedway Park in Connecticut. Nestled into the “Quiet Corner” where Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island meet, this speedway surprised Competition Director Patrick Goguen with its course offerings. Elites and amateurs will be seriously challenged by run-ups, drop-offs and off-cambers.
At our first meeting the management of the Thompson Speedway could not have been more welcoming, more enthusiastic, and more supportive. They sought to develop a long term partnership that would allow us to regularly build course features year upon year.
What about the old things you came to love about Providence?
Will we have the New England Builders’ Ball? We will again host this fabulous event on Friday evening in the racing paddock, constructed to hold 26 race cars. And given the popularity of the show, those exhibitors will keep their wares on display throughout the weekend, with the race course running through one end of the paddock, and registration at the other.
Will Gran Fondo New England return? Sunday’s non-competitive road event will return with a more amenable start time and a course that will have minimal automobile traffic. And we will integrate some dirt road sections that will keep a touch of ‘cross in our cross festival. The Quiet Corner of New England offers the bucolic feel of Vermont just an hour’s drive from Metro Boston.
What about the great food and beer? We are thrilled to report that the track has a complete restaurant on site and can provide a wide range of food offerings. Sadly the track’s commercial obligations will not allow us to serve the products of our friends at Harpoon Brewery. But we will say hello to a new distributor that will enable to us offer you a complete Belgian beer festival with a wide variety of offerings brewed on both sides of the Atlantic. And yes, we will be serving mayo with the frittes!!!
How about lodging? While there are numerous hotel offerings within a 15-minute drive of the venue, we are also thrilled to announce that we will be able to offer on-site camping in two sites, one for families and another that will afford a bit more revelry. This event will harken back to the days when Mount Snow was so much more than just a bike race. And there are showers on site!
Will we still have club row and convenient parking? This is the best amenity of them all! With a signalized bridge to the race infield, exhibitors, clubs and teams will be able to drive in and out of the infield throughout the weekend. And the race course will be woven about them to afford them great racing visibility and crowd appeal.
Will there still be an expo? All of the exhibitors contacted to date are thrilled with the news and plan to return. Working for more than 15 years at Laguna Seca, site of the Sea Otter Classic, showed us the massive advantages to be had on private land developed specifically to host large events. The organizers are busy at work to develop our expo into the Northeast’s premier consumer and dealer show to allow shop owners, journalists and the enthusiasts to check out the newest offerings for the following year.
Can we ride mountain bikes? The good news of this move gets even better. The new venue is positioned close to Air Line State Park, which is a 50-mile long railroad bed. That leads directly to the Douglas State Park, which offers more than 32 miles of fantastic mountain bike trails that are well marked and maintained with help from our friends at NEMBA. We are encouraging exhibitors to bring mountain bikes. The trails range from smooth and flowy to rocky and technical, so mix it up!
We realize there will be some bumps in the transition. We realize there will be some challenges. But we know, with your support, that we will take this event and this sport to new heights.
We look forward to seeing you at the KMC CrossFest.