A sporting event that brings hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Merced area every year is now ending after two decades. Every March more than a thousand cyclists sprint through the streets of Merced and surrounding communities for the Mercy Credit Union Cycling Classic. But now the 20-year-old race has run its course.

"Unfortunately the first weekend of March you won't hear the buzz. You won't hear the humming of the wheels that you heard, and you won't see the cyclists all over town," Race Founder and Director Doug Fluetsch said.

Doug Fluetsch started the race when he was just 23-years-old. It grew from a two day event to a four day extravaganza with riders coming from around the world to compete. But Fleutsch recently made the difficult decision to pull the plug after some members of the management committee moved on to other projects.

"The event had grown so much to the point where the expectations were so high that a reduced committee or management team really couldn't fulfill those expectations anymore," Fluetsch said.

Organizers were also worried about a lack of support for the sport itself because of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

"Our concern was a lot of the professional cycling teams are scaling back or at least their sponsors were providing less income, and as that happened we weren't certain that those teams would still be at Merco," Fluetsch said.

The news is disappointing for many local businesses. Hotels and restaurants, such as j&r tacos, enjoyed a big boost from the cycling teams, their families, and fans during the race.

"We used to bring more extra people to work, extra employees, prepare more food, so it's going to be a very big loss," said Oscar Torres, J&R Tacos co-owner

City officials estimate the total economic impact at nearly a half million dollars each year, money that will be missed unless the race is reincarnated.

"The race courses we used and our community embraced the event so much that logistically it would be very easy for someone to come in and almost reinvigorate the event and for it to come back. That's surely a possibility. I'm not necessarily sure I'll be involved," Fluetsch said.

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