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Volume 24 No. 115

Events and Attractions

Event directors and promoters of major bicycle races agreed that the Boston Marathon bombings will likely lead to increased security at cycling events. However, these bike events present a significant challenge to security and safety personnel, because the courses often span more than 100 miles. "We're not a stadium or a coliseum, we have a venue that is 750 miles long," said Medalist Sports Managing Partner Jim Birrell, whose company oversees operations for the Amgen Tour of California, the Tour of Utah, the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge and the Tour of Alberta races. "Our focus has always been on traffic management: How do we get our entourage from Point A to Point B in the safest possible manner?" Birrell said he works with state police forces to oversee rolling police presence along each race's route, and then local organizing committees to handle security and safety at the start and finish cities. He said that after the Boston bombings he was in contact with the California Highway Patrol and local organizers of the Amgen Tour of California, which runs May 12-19. Birrell said they will employ a "See Something, Say Something" banner and T-shirt campaign at the race, which asks spectators to alert law enforcement in case they see something suspicious. Other changes to security, he said, have not been finalized. In the 30 years in which Birrell has organized pro bike races, he has never seen an act of terrorism similar to the Boston bombings. During the Grand Junction, Colo., stage of the '87 Coors Classic, however, the race's start line had to be moved due to an armed standoff at the local courthouse. "I had to belly crawl with an officer to get our timing stuff off of the stage," Birrell said. "We had snipers protecting us."

PRECAUTIONS ALREADY IN PLACE IN N.Y.: Ulrich Fluhme, who owns and directs the N.Y. Gran Fondo bicycle event, said his race already employs 50 private security personnel for the event, which sends 5,000 amateur cyclists on a 100-mile course between New York City and Bear Mountain, N.Y. Local police also close roads along the course. The race begins on the George Washington Bridge, and security guards only allow registered participants near the start line. Guards also do not allow participants to bring duffel bags or backpacks to the start. "You have to check in with your bib number and your wrist band to go onto the bridge," Fluhme said. "From this perspective, at least we know who is on the bridge." Fluhme is a three-time finisher of the Boston Marathon, and in '12 he completed the race in 2:53. He was slated to compete this year, but he did not go through with his plans because his training was not up to his standards.

BOMBING'S IMPACT ON MAJOR EVENTS: Fluhme said he believes registration numbers for major events could drop in the wake of the attack. "This could change the landscape," he said. "The hope is that people don't let it affect our lives too much. We can't allow one person to take away all the fun we have in our lives." U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter said the effects of the Boston Marathon bombings on the endurance sports community could be similar to the September 11, 2001 attack's effect on security at airports, mainstream sports venues and public events. "We had security changes for the better after (September 11) to venues like arenas, and I think we'll see similar positive changes at cycling races and big public events, and that is a good thing," he said. "We have to make sure that the fun and celebratory environment is not lost."