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 -Basking Ridge, NJ

Part I

ricola_grand_big

The 4th annual Ricola Twilight Grand Prix cycling race is set to take place on Wednesday, May 27th in the bucolic borough of Basking Ridge New Jersey.

The elite cycling event attracts a good number of pro and pro-am riders from all over the country including a small contingent of globally based riders as well.

Though not a points paying race for these pro’s and non-pro’s , the large attractive purse of $10,000 in prize money is definitely a strong pull for the 120+ competing riders. Most of whom were already in town for the oldest bicycle race in the country- the 50 mile Tour of Somerville, which will have run its 66th edition on Memorial Day.

The Ricola GP organizers capitalized on the Somerville classic, taking advantage of logistics by staging their race just 2 days after the ToS event. Local bicycle shop Liberty Cycle and its owner/operator, Greg Cordasc was instrumental in bringing the event to the Somerset County borough.

The race takes place in historic downtown Basking Ridge, with the riders passing along the main line of retailers along South Finley Avenue. The circuit layout is key in showcasing the many types of retail stores and services in the borough.

The race course is not the typical “criterium” style course and is regarded as one of the most technical short race circuits in the U.S. It features a 1.1 mile loop that offers a combination of 8 tight and sweeping corners every lap over the 44 mile race distance.

There are plenty of ideal spectating spots where fans get up close and personal- just inches away from some of the best elite riders- sweeping past in excess of 35 mph, which makes it unique and exciting to watch.

small alp horns

The event offers some interesting and fun pre-race activities such a BMX riding and tricks demo, the Bonnie Brae Knights Drum Corp. and the Ricola Swiss Alp horn players. The organizers have made the event appealing not only to cycling fans, but the whole family and all ages as well.

Obtaining the headline sponsor, Ricola USA was a huge ‘get’ for the event, providing visibility, name recognition and a lot of potential market appeal. With such a major sponsor, you would think that the race would be a fairly big attraction for the borough.  After all, it is a professional sporting event.

But apparently that is where that thought ends. It is somewhat painfully obvious that borough officials of Basking Ridge do not exactly embrace the event- for whatever inexplicable or unapparent reasons they may have.

Spectator turn out is decent, but certainly nowhere near its true potential. The racing event has tremendous appeal, but does not yield the bigger, more enthusiastic type crowds at other similar cycling events within the area, such as the Tour of Somerville.

There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the solid efforts from the promotion of the race and the townships lack of efforts to publicize and market the race- in fact, one could even say they almost seem to undermine it.

(a topic further explained in parts II & III)

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