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Baltimore region businesses prepare for professional bicycle race crowds

After two years of delay, the Baltimore region is hosting a professional bicycle race where athletes are expected to hit speeds upwards of 45 miles per hour on city streets Sunday afternoon after starting the 120 mile race in Baltimore County. The inaugural Maryland Cycling Classic is anticipated to draw 50,000 visitors to Baltimore City and County this weekend. Businesses in the area are estimated to rake in about $11 million from consumers staying at hotels, visiting retail shops and eating at restaurants. By comparison, the five-day Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference held in February generated $19.6 million of economic activity from spectators and athletes.

“This weekend is definitely looking to be a very busy one, hotel bookings continue to come in even last minute trips to the city,” said Amy Rohrer, CEO of the Maryland Hotel Lodging Association. But for now, there doesn’t appear to be a total sell out of available hotel rooms, Rohrer said.

It could mean an economic boost for business from spectators along the sprawling bicycle race route which includes several loops around downtown and midtown Baltimore.

It’s not just the bicycle race drawing visitors to the region; there’s a 12 mile relay race for runners along Charles Street on Saturday and the Orioles begin a weekend long home stand at Camden Yards Friday night.

Festivities began on Thursday afternoon with a community Bike Jam as children of all ages worked up an appetite bicycling across Patterson Park.

At least, that’s what Baltimore food truck co-owners Tamara Carter and Lakia Shelton were hoping.

The pair run Eat This food truck and look to open their first brick-and-mortar restaurant by the end of the year in the Waverly neighborhood. Eat This serves chicken wings and french fries loaded with pulled pork, steak and crab.

“We’re hoping for a great turnout,” Shelton said. “Bike Jam normally brings a nice crowd, it’s going to be busy.”

Local officials said the goal is to “showcase another part of Baltimore” as a “sports city for the mid Atlantic” region, said Mayor Brandon Scott.

Road closures are expected along the race route as both the cyclists and their race caravan with 60 support vehicles could stretch a mile long. The race begins at 1:30 p.m. in Sparks which sits in Baltimore County.

“It’s going to be busy,” said Melissa Pelaez, general manager of Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry shop in Little Italy.

The Maryland Cycling Classic Baltimore City circuit detail shows the race route across midtown, downtown and Harbor East.
Maryland Cycling Classic
The Maryland Cycling Classic Baltimore City circuit detail shows the race route across midtown, downtown and Harbor East.

Riders are expected to reach central Baltimore City around 4:30 p.m. and cross the finish line around 6:00 p.m. along Pratt Street at Market Place. Motorists will be allowed to cross the course wherever possible directed by police and transportation officers but expect traffic stops and delays.

Pelaez said she didn’t realize how many people were expected to watch the race and now plans to bring in some extra workers this weekend to keep up with anticipated demand from so much foot traffic since the shop sits near the race route.

“I’m a little nervous now,” she said.

Sundays are typically super busy at Ovenbird bakery in Little Italy and the crew is prepared for big crowds, said owner Keiller Kyle.

"We usually have lines down the block, honestly I think it's going to work out incredibly well," Kyle said.

The bakery made extra sourdough starter and expect to bake more bread this weekend. He's experienced a professional bicycle race in California and the crowds were "nuts" during the event, he said.

"We're very excited to have the tour come by our neighborhood, it's pretty awesome," he said. "It's going to be fun."

Kristen Mosbrucker is a digital news editor and producer for WYPR. @k_mosbrucker
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