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Ellicottville Hosts its Own ‘Tour de France’ Centurion Arrives Next Friday

by Jeff Cole

The Centurion cycling event is coming to Ellicottville in what will be the first of five consecutive times it will be held in the village.

The three-day festival will take place Aug. 17-19 and will feature a number of events, including a bike movie night at 6 p.m. Aug. 17, the Centurion 25 (25 miles long) at 8 a.m. Aug. 18, and the C50 and C100 Sunday morning.

The cost of registration depends on the event and registration can be done by visiting www.centurioncycling.com or www.eventsonline.ca/events/centurion. To get 50 percent off the registration fee, visit the second site and enter the code CCEL5012.

One highlight of the event is Pat’s Ride, an 11.5-mile ride with National Hockey League Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Sabres great Pat LaFontaine. Pat’s Ride is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 18. Proceeds from this ride will benefit LaFontaine’s Companions in Courage Foundation, which raises funds for hospitals to build interactive playrooms for hospitalized children.

Brian McFadden, executive director for the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce, said that the Ontario, Canada-based Centurion office contacted him last October about holding the event in Ellicottville.

“They just heard so much about Ellicottville and all the things we’re doing here and it kind of suited their M.O. (mode of operation). They like to run these events in resort towns. And we’re also close to the Canadian border and we have a lot of Canadian tourists here. So it all kind of makes sense to them,” he said.

McFadden said the chamber bought the rights to the event for five years, meaning that the race will be held in Ellicottville for the next five years. He said that the event is a great expense to the chamber, though Holiday Valley helped with “the financial side” for the first year, and noted the Centurion isn’t about benefitting the chamber.

“It’s all about bringing folks to town and using the hotels and restaurants and shops and help building the destination,” he said.

The Centurion, according to its race director, Tim Hyland, “sort of gives the ‘weekend warrior’ a pro treatment.”

“They can ride or race as hard as they want or as slow as they want, but it doesn’t really matter. No one’s judging them based on their ability level. It’s just an opportunity to see what it would be like to be in a professional race,” he said.

Dennis Baldwin, owner of the Ellicottville Bike Shop, said he “generally rides a lot” and participates in a lot of events, such as 100-mile mountain bike races, and that he plans to ride in the Centurion.

“I just think it’s a cool local event and it’s a good local event to support and be involved in,” he said.

With 500 to more than 1,000 cyclists expected to participate, the Centurion organization relies on police, nutritional, mechanical and medical support to ensure that the event is as safe as possible.

“It’s about as safe as you can get if you’re out there participating with hundreds or thousands of people on the roadway,” Hyland said.

So many cyclists could mean good business for some Ellicottville lodging areas, too.

Jane Eshbaugh, marketing director for Holiday Valley, said that Centurion cyclists have reserved about 70 lodging units at the Inn at Holiday Valley, the Tamarack Club and Holiday Valley Rental Management so far, and added that she is sure there will be more to come.

“Many of the guests are Canadians who have not been to this area before, so that’s great news,” she said.

Though she was unable to divulge an exact figure, Justina Carr, operations supervisor for Ellicottville Wingate, said the hotel expects a “decent amount” of reservations for the event.

“We’re definitely excited about seeing a lot of people coming in. Hopefully it will be a lot of new people who haven’t been to Ellicottville, either,” she said.

Also excited about the Centurion being held in Ellicottville is Hyland.

“The village of Ellicottville is like from a postcard. It’s picturesque and it’s quaint, and it’s a great setting for the venue, so we’re excited to get going and see what we can do there,” he said.

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