Having more than 3,000 cyclists zooming through western Dane County over two days this summer is causing some local leaders and residents to worry about potential car-bike conflicts and the inconvenience of having to temporarily close roads during such a large-scale event.
"There has been some very vocal opposition from some local residents," said Anthony Varda, chairman of the town of Berry, which is one of several municipalities through which the Centurion Cycling race could travel. "With the group of bicyclists tying up everything from Highways P and 14, anybody traveling to or from the town to Madison will find life disrupted for a period of time on those days."
The Centurion Cycling race — based on the European concept of a large-scale race on a professional course but open to amateurs and recreational cyclists — will have 25-, 50- and 100-mile courses. The shortest race is planned for Aug. 7, and the longer races will be on Aug. 8.
The event is expected to be largest cycling race ever in the Madison area — and among the first of its kind in the United States.
The race will require road closures throughout the route, including two full stoppages where the course crosses Highway 14 in Cross Plains for 30 minutes outbound and on the return. And while most municipalities have signed off on the event, some towns along the route haven't yet permitted access to their roads.
The course will be completely closed to cars to allow cyclists within 30 minutes of the lead rider full use of the road. Once the lead pack has passed, auto traffic will be allowed on the course, but cyclists forming a second zone of riders will have full use of the right-hand lane and shoulder.
Riders who fall behind the second zone will be given the option to abandon the race or continue as a "citizen rider," following all the standard traffic rules, as the road will be completely open to motorized vehicles. Only portions of the course will be completely closed to traffic at any one time during race, which is expected to last up to eight hours for the 100-mile race.
"There's been a lot of concern, I think, in terms of what (the race) is going to mean for them," Tim Hyland, local manager serving the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau in organizing the Centurion Cycling event, said of local officials and residents. "(They're asking) why should they allow a Sunday morning's worth of sporadic disruptions?"
But he said the race will introduce thousands of cyclists and spectators to western Dane County.
Race size an issue
Leaders throughout Dane County say the Centurion organization has communicated and worked well with municipalities so far, but residents still are wary about the affect thousands of cyclists will have that weekend and the days leading up to the event.
"There has been a great deal of concern about ... closing the roads," said Mark Sherven, chairman for the town of Vermont. "It's definitely going to have an impact on peoples' lives."
Sherven said the local Horribly Hilly Hundreds bike ride has come through the town for years, but that's usually only 1,000 cyclists and doesn't close any roads. The centurion race could be three times that many.
"That's why all of a sudden we needed to look into this more carefully," Sherven said. "We're not anti-bicycling, but we are pro-resident."
The issue will be discussed at the town's meeting next week.
Cross Plains Police Chief Tom Janssen said it would be safest if the entire route was closed to vehicle traffic for the duration of the race, however he knows that's not a feasible option.
"To me it's a very dangerous situation," he said.
In addition, closing Highway 14 — even for less than an hour — is a significant disruption in part because the alternative route, Bourbon Road, also is part of the bike course.
But Hyland said while most of the race takes place on less-traveled rural roads, closing major roads like Highways 14 and 78 is unavoidable. He's requested the closure from the state Department of Transportation — one of about 18 state, county and municipal approvals required to finalize the route. According to a 2006 DOT traffic count, an average of 13,800 cars travel daily on Highway 14 where it crosses Highway P.
"It's pretty much impossible to lay out a 100-mile route without crossing some major roadway," he said.
Possible future payments
In the town of Middleton, leaders approved the event's use of the town roads earlier this month, but Town Board members said they will expect some payment from organizers next year if this becomes an annual event.
Unlike the cities of Madison and Middleton that will benefit from having riders stay in their hotels and eat in their restaurants, Dane County towns don't benefit from these events, said David Shaw, town of Middleton administrator.
Hyland said financial contributions could be possible in the future, likely in the form of a foundation to promote health and fitness.
"I think everybody's committed to a community give-back," he said.
In the town of Berry, where the race is going through only a small part of the town on a road of about a dozen houses, Centurion could be required to pay a $750 fee to use town roads — the base fee of $50 and $2 for each rider with a maximum of $750.
Varda said the concern from town residents partly stems from cyclists who have been "rude" in the past and "not followed the rules." But he expects the board to approve the event and "give it a shot."
Conflicts between residents and cyclists also have arisen during the Ironman Wisconsin Triathlon, including in 2004 when several cyclists competing in the event had flat tires from nails, which some participants thought were placed intentionally.