Mystic - Tourism officials are organizing a professional bicycling race that will begin in Newport, R.I., and end at Mystic Aquarium as a way to promote the two destinations.
Peter Glankoff, an aquarium vice president who is also an official with the Greater Mystic Visitors Bureau, and Evan Smith, the president and CEO of Discover Newport, have spent 18 months working on the race proposal with former pro cyclist and race coordinator Bill Humphreys of Old Lyme. They have met with police, state officials and 14 towns along the 95-mile course to outline their plan and get estimates of public safety costs. With the logistics in place, they are now beginning to seek sponsors to cover the costs of the race.
The hope is to stage the race on Sept. 28, 2013, but Smith said Monday that the race could be delayed until 2014 if more work is needed to secure sponsors.
Glankoff said the race would help promote southern New England as a destination and make visitors aware of how close the two destinations are. He said a formal announcement of the race will be made when sponsorships have been secured.
The race would begin in Newport because even though the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority has given permission for the estimated 100 riders to cross the Newport Pell Bridge, they must do so by 8 a.m. Rhode Island officials have also given permission for the riders to cross the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge. Riders would continue down Route 138 and then west on Route 1 to Mystic. The day after the race there would be a spectator friendly circuit race around Olde Mistick Village.
Smith said the race was the result of discussions between him and Glankoff about how the two tourist destinations could collaborate. He said they were both excited about the idea of a bike race which was one of about a dozen ideas under consideration. While Newport is known for its jazz festival, tennis tournament and sailing, Smith said a cycling competition is "something we don't have in our portfolio in Newport."
The three men recently traveled to Doylestown, Pa., to watch a professional road race.
"It was so impressive to watch the race and see the impact it had on the community," Evans said. "We see this as a means of economic development."
He said the race brings visitors to the area and creates business for hotels and restaurants. He said the other impact will come from the media coverage of the race which could include television.
Glankoff and Smith said the race would also allow the two groups to reach the large cycling population which has attractive demographics.
Smith and Glankoff praised Humphreys for his knowledge of the cycling world.
"He's really educated us about the particulars of this," Smith said.
Smith said the focus of the sponsorship effort will be to sign up a national brand that has a regional presence.
"We need someone who sees the potential of this and wants to be part of grass-roots effort," he said. "We need someone who will believe in us and take the first step."