It was cloudy and cold, but the rain held off long enough for the annual Megan Baab Memorial Road Race to kick off the racing season for Texas cyclists Saturday at the Copperas Cove Civic Center.
More than 300 cyclists attended the U.S.A. Cycling-sanctioned race, with professionals racing an 85-mile route and other categories a 53-mile route.
The race does not count officially for points in the Texas race series, race director Andy Hollinger said. It is, however, the first opportunity cyclists have to find out whether their winter training regimen was helpful or if they have areas needing work before official races begin in February.
“This has been the first race of the year for 15 years. We have some of the best pros in Texas (participating),” he said. “This is a tough race — this is not a ‘go around in circles a couple of times,’ this is out doing 53 miles all by yourself. Copperas Cove is known as Texas’ most bicycle-friendly city — we start the season here and finish it at Fort Hood later in the season.”
The Cove Chamber of Commerce event brings in more than twice the number of tourists as racers annually — a majority of them support for the racers — many of which stay overnight the day prior to the race in local hotels and spend money at local restaurants prior to leaving, said Chamber President Betty Price.
“We’re real excited to host this again,” Price said. “This is a great event for our community. It’s not just for local riders; at least 95 percent of those participating in the race today are from outside of Copperas Cove. We have become known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in Texas among they cycling community.”
The race is a perfect opportunity for tourists to see what Cove has to offer, said Cove Mayor Frank Seffrood, who welcomed the racers and wished them luck before the race began.
“This is another great day in Copperas Cove,” he said. “This bike race has a very competitive participation from throughout the entire area and there is no doubt this gives tourists an opportunity to see the great things we have to offer here. We are an open-door community; if you want to come in and participate in something, we pretty much have something that is going to fit your bill.”
All proceeds of the race benefit a college scholarship fund for female cyclists in honor of Baab, a young racer killed when a car ran her over on her bike while she was training in 2011.