Mountain bikers to compete in U.S. Pro Cup at Centennial Park
Olympic-level mountain bikers will be in Northwest Arkansas this week.
What's happening: For the second consecutive year, Centennial Park will host the U.S. Pro Cup, featuring pro and amateur cross-country mountain bike races. The races start Wednesday and run through Sunday in Fayetteville.
- It's family-friendly and free.
Why it matters: Hosting professional-level cycling events brings international attention to NWA as a cycling destination. It also allows Fayetteville to get maximum usage from Centennial Park, a $3.3 million project that was built specifically for cyclo-cross racing.
Flashback: Last year, more than 1,300 competitors attended the event, which was held over two weekends.
- They came from more than 35 states and Mexico, Canada, Columbia, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica, Hazel Hernandez, vice president of communications for Experience Fayetteville, told Axios.
- The economic impact of that weekend is estimated to be more than $500,000, Hernandez said.
How to watch: Most of the races will weave back into the woods around Centennial Park, but will use man-made rock features on the cyclo-cross track with an "ominous rock drop" (see photo).
- The rock drop is a great place to spectate, Brannon Pack, director of cycling tourism for Experience Fayetteville, tells us. "That's going to be a rowdy little spot," he said. "Bring the cowbells — let's make some noise."
- Plus, there's always the start/finish line.
- Wednesday is a full day of junior men and women professional races.
- There's no racing on Thursday.
- Short-track racing on Friday will be a fun watch because spectators can see most of the track, and it's non-stop action, Pack said.
- Saturday and Sunday mornings are amateur races.
- Saturday afternoon is for the elite juniors, and Sunday afternoon is for elite men and women.
What's next: A handful of upcoming NWA cycling events:
- May 1 — Kicks off National Bike Month
- May 1 — Also starts the National Bike Challenge; NWA's sign-up page
- May 1 — NWA Spring Classic road races
- May 20 — National Bike to Work Day
- May 19-22 — Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race
- June 17-19 — Bentonville Bike Fest
- June 25 — Highlands Gravel Classic, a Union Cycliste Internationale gravel world series event
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