RIVERTOWN RALLY Gran Prix of Cycling

1977 Super Bowl of Cycling

With the passing into history of Riverfront Stadium (Cinergy Field for you youngsters), it seems only appropriate to review its’ brief, but breath taking, cycling history. The stadium hosted one bicycle race the RIVERTOWN RALLY Gran Prix of Cycling. While it wasn’t the biggest bicycle race of 1977, it was probably the only one that encompassed an NFL stadium.

The race was the brainchild of Greg Hanfbauer and me. Greg was at the time an up-and-coming officer of QCW as well as a rising star in the administration of the City of Cincinnati. Greg had a burning desire to put on a bicycle race in the streets of downtown Cincinnati, and he knew the people who could make it happen.

We teamed up with the Downtown Council to promote a downtown bicycle race.  The Downtown Council is the downtown promotions arm of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, the same organization which originated and owns Oktoberfest Zinzinnati.  Betty Lane of the Downtown Council was instrumental in assisting us with the race and would later become the QCW Secretary, Publicity Director and Newsletter Editor into the early 1990’s.

There were many false starts on downtown courses, most of them focusing on the Lytle Park area.  Eventually we settled on a labyrinthine route that encompassed the Riverfront Stadium complex.  It was a stunning course!

The start/finish area was on the east side of the stadium plaza.  You circled around the south side of the plaza exited the plaza level onto the ramp of the Suspension Bridge, made a sweeping right hand turn onto the elevated roadway along the north side of the stadium, down a 180° right-hand turn onto 2nd Street.  On 2nd it was like riding in a tunnel underneath the stadium plaza with the support columns flickering past like a picket fence.  Then you busted out into daylight only to perform another 180° turn and head back under the stadium plaza.  Upon exiting the tunnel a second time you made your third 180° and headed up the ramp that would take you across Ft. Washington Way.  A right turn onto 3rd Street was followed by three quick, tight, uphill, 90° left turns which put you onto the bus/taxi ramp to the stadium.  Exiting the ramp onto the stadium plaza you were faced with a quick S turn to avoid the traffic islands and then headed to the finish. Approximately 1.5 miles of pure torture! As the race application noted “Wheelsuckers need not apply!”

The race took place on Sunday, August 21st, a day which started out warm and sunny and finished with thunderstorms that matched the course in ferocity.  One lesson learned that day was that however well intentioned your thoughts might be, covering the sewer lids with plywood to keep bicycle wheels out will also keep out a lot of rain water!

If you’re putting on a race in an area where they don’t have a lot of electrical outlets you may need to rent a generator.  We rented one and put it down one level in the stadium parking garage. Not having a lot of extension cords I made a 250 footer out of some house wire my dad had lying around.  House wire might seem like pretty tough stuff, but after the race, when you’ve driven through one too many deep puddles while picking up your plywood sewer lid covers, and your 1973 Honda Civic has stalled out and won’t restart, don’t bother trying to tow your car with it, Greg and I did, but that wire kept breaking!

The race drew a good number of riders for an event with a modest prize list.  Those who came almost certainly had one of their more memorable bicycle races, not just for the course but for the weather that the Senior I/II event experienced.  The course and weather moved Alan Marcosson enough that he wrote a dramatic article for Velo News.  The piece was titled “Did I hear a bell?” and ran over a photograph of a bunch of race officials standing around in the rain.  The photo was not from our race, but it gave the story a very special look.