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Reading 120 pro bike race canceled; new community race could replace it

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The inaugural Reading 120 in 2015. (File photo)
The inaugural Reading 120 in 2015. (File photo)

After months of uncertainty, the Reading 120 professional bike race has been canceled this year because of logistical and financial difficulties, organizers said.

The 120-mile race through Reading and scenic Berks County, which would have been held for the third time in September, was one of only seven American races sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale and drew a roster of professional cyclists from around the world.

The race was in jeopardy in February after Berks County commissioners withdrew the county’s support, which included logistics and department of emergency services.

An alternative, community-oriented race to replace it is tentatively planned for October by a newly formed committee of public and private entities comprised of the Reading Eagle Co., Reading Recreation Commission, Greater Reading Chamber & Economic Development Corp., state Rep. Mark Rozzi, Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach, Reading and Lower Alsace Township.

Eric Schippers, senior vice president of public affairs for Penn National Gaming Inc. in Wyomissing, one of the principal sponsors of the Reading 120 the past two years, said the new race will be enable cyclists of all skill levels to participate and have more community and charity-oriented events, which he said the Reading 120 lacked.

“We hope to share more details in the coming weeks, but our goal is to continue to build upon the positive momentum we’ve generated over the last two years to create a culture of cycling in Reading and to provide an even better showcase for our community,” Schippers said in a statement.

Crystal Seitz, president of Pennsylvania’s Americana Region, the county’s convention and visitors bureau, said she was disappointed the Reading 120 was canceled because the agency is building on Berks’ reputation as a strong area for cycling.

“The loss to us is the international and national interest that we had,” Seitz said. “This new race won’t replace the Reading 120, but it doesn’t mean we couldn’t do a Reading 120 down the road in a few years.”

But all is not lost, she said. The region still has lots of other cycling activities “between road riding and mountain biking and with the new velodrome that will coming.”

The $20 million National Velodrome at Albright College is being planned and could open for the 2018-19 academic year.

“My hope is the committee that is working on the new race will be successful and that it generates visitors and maybe regional interest,” Seitz said.

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