By Fatiha Belfakir
Special to the AFRO

Cyclists from 20 countries are preparing to ride out for the Maryland Cycling Classic, which will return for the first time in two years after a break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The race day will take place on Sept. 4. and will start in Sparks, Md., at the headquarters of Kelly Benefits Strategies, and end at the finish line on Pratt Street in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. 

“It’s an incredible opportunity to showcase the Baltimore that we all love to a global audience,” said Mayor Brandon Scott. “We are showcasing to the whole world that we love sports in Baltimore, and most importantly, sports love us. We are going to show everyone again –cyclists, residents, and visitors– how our city and region show up.” 

Former Tour de France winners, athletes who have competed in the Olympics and Champions from around the country will be present.

Scott noted that the cycling classic is just one of the major sporting events that has taken place in Baltimore City. In February the CIAA basketball tournament was held in downtown Baltimore, and major league teams like the Orioles and Ravens keep Charm City relevant when it comes to professional sports. 

The race will include 16 teams that have seven members each. Cyclists will take off from Sparks, Md. at 1:30 p.m., with the first arrivals at the Baltimore finish line around 4:30 p.m. 

Al Hutchinson, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, a marketing organization that encourages tourism in Baltimore City, said “This has a huge economic impact on the community.” 

The Maryland Cycling Classic will be an 120 mile route-race for cyclists from around the world. (Photo Courtesy of Maryland Cycling Classic) https://www.marylandcyclingclassic.us/route/

“We are going to have cyclists from all over the world just showcasing all the beauty in Baltimore City,” Hutchinson continued, adding that an event of this nature will have an economic impact between 3 to 10 million this weekend. “It’s going to be a postcard event, an opportunity for us to put a bright light on the city of Baltimore.”

Shaka Pitts, co-founder of the biking advocacy group, Black People Ride Bikes (BPRB), told the AFRO that the hosting of such events highlights the importance of top-notch transportation systems that include cyclists. 

“We are fighting for better infrastructure here in town,” said Pitts. “Having an event like the Maryland Cycling Classic in the city will bring us together as a community. Investors coming to town and putting us on a pedestal will help us to get the type of infrastructure and the type of equity that we want.”  

Pitts encourages people of the African Diaspora to get involved in cycling, and hopes that representation in the professional sport of cycling will increase as more Black residents start riding.

“Black cyclists should get involved and register for these large events to continue documenting Black sport history and Black athletes’ participation,” said Pitts. “Seeing black cyclists and cycling events influences young children, as it exposes possibilities and endless potential.”

“You don’t just have to get a basketball scholarship. You don’t just have to get a football scholarship– there are other types of sports out there and cycling is one of them.”

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