The USA Crits Speed Week competitors put on another good show in the city of Beaufort's streets during Tuesday's fifth annual Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic.
But the high-speed, tight-turn bicycle race ends much as each previous edition has -- with some uncertainty as to whether there will be another criterium next year.
Race director D.G. Veitch said that despite the event's popularity, sponsorships were down last year and didn't improve much this year. The economy no doubt is to blame for some of these problems, but Veitch made another suggestion for putting the race on firm ground -- holding it on a weekend and possibly even holding it in conjunction with another event, such as this weekend's A Taste of Beaufort.
This is an idea worth exploring, although at least three potential problems would need to be solved. First, there are the logistics of closing off several downtown streets at precisely the time visitors are being invited into the downtown area and Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Second, the bike competition could be seen by longtime festivalgoers with no interest in cycling as an inconvenience that makes the trip too much of a hassle. Third, since the race is part of a series of seven competitions over nine days, local organizers might simply be unable to secure a weekend date.
But assuming these problems can be solved, the potential benefits to the city of Beaufort and its businesses are obvious.
A weekend race and a field of Olympic-caliber cyclists would certainly attract more spectators than a Tuesday evening event, and the area from which those spectators are drawn would expand.
What's more, these visitors would likely be younger, outdoors-oriented racing fans -- a bit different from the city's more typical history-and-scenery tourists. In other words, this is an opportunity to attract a different demographic and introduce a whole new set of repeat visitors and future residents to Beaufort's charms.
The possibilities are at least worth serious conversation between representatives of the city of Beaufort, Main Street, USA, the cycling event and USA Crits.