UCI upgrades three US ProTour events; Tour of Utah changes dates
By Sue George
USA Cycling announced three race UCI event category upgrades and one calendar change for next year's revamped USA Cycling Professional Tour.
Two inaugural events, the US Open in Richmond and the Tour of Missouri, have been granted category one status. The Austin Men's International already had category one status, which means a total of three brand new events will be category one in 2007. The upgrades will allow race promoters to invite UCI ProTour teams and offer more international ranking points for competitors.
Another change moves the Tour of Utah to an earlier date. Originally scheduled for August 12-19, the Tour of Utah is now scheduled for June 30-July 7 and avoids conflict with the professional criterium championships and the first-year Le Tour Montreal-Boston, also a category 1 event.
Andy Lee, of USA Cycling, described to Cyclingnews on how the changes came to be in effect. "It's a collaborative effort. As the national governing body, we interface with the UCI. When Sean Petty [Chief Operating Officer of USA Cycling] was at the UCI road commission meeting, he lobbied for the upgrades, but we also worked with the promoters. However, the date changes were more of a UCI thing. They will often come back and say when dates are available on the calendar. The Utah race conflicted with two races."
Petty elaborated on the process. "The organizers send calendar forms in advance of the June 1 deadline for each nation to put forth requests for next year's calendar. The road commission reviews them. If it's an ongoing event, it's straightforward to renew status. The commission evaluates the event based on commissaire's report of the previous year. If a new event, more information must be provided, and there is more of a lobbying process. If we [USA Cycling] think the race is worthy, we go to bat for them. First and foremost, we must be assured of the organizers' quality."
Referring to the three new races, Petty said, "Our request for category one status was not granted on the initial go-around, but based on subsequent information, it was granted. For example, initially Medalist sports was not onboard for Tour of Missouri. Then they got behind it and the state also stepped up to support the race. Letters from the governor helped."
Petty is a member of the UCI Road Commission. At the World Championships, the group meets to iron out any remaining schedule conflicts around the world and re-consider any requests for UCI points.
Lee believes the changes will provide two benefits. "One, it will give more opportunities for American athletes to earn UCI points, which count toward individual and country rankings [used to determine slots for major international competitions like the Olympics]. The second thing this does is show the growth of cycling in the US. This is a testament that the UCI believes in cycling in this country." Lee refers not only to the largest-ever number of UCI sanctioned American events, but to the high HC rankings earned by several key events. He said he expects that having more world-class events will create a buzz and help the overall state of cycling.
The changes were confirmed at the UCI road commission meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, earlier this month. The 15-race series of international-caliber events connected by a season-long points system will make its debut in 2007 and feature some of the top world-class athletes and teams from around the globe.
Steve Johnson, chief executive officer of USA Cycling, said the changes "illustrate the quality of the organizations that promote each event and the commitment of the respective states and cities, which is critical to hosting world class events."
Lee explained reasons why three inaugural events may have earned category one UCI status. "The Tour of Missouri is organized by Medalist Sports which also organizes the Tour of California and the Tour of Georgia, so they have a long history of putting on world class events with UCI. Austin will be put on by G4 productions, which has staff who was involved with US Pro championships and the Philly series."
Of the 15 races on the USA Cycling Professional Tour, three are categorized as Hors Categorie the AMGEN Tour of California (2.HC), the Tour de Georgia (2.HC) and the Commerce Bank International Championship in Philadelphia (1.HC). Two others also carry category 1 status as the single-day Commerce Bank Lancaster Classic (1.1) and the Commerce Bank Reading Classic (1.1) in Pennsylvania join the events in Richmond, Missouri and Austin. Category two events include the Saturn Rochester Twilight Crit (1.2), the Univest Grand Prix (1. 2), the Tour de Leelanau (1.2) and the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah (2. 2).
The three remaining events on the calendar, the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial Championships in Greenville, South Carolina, and the USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships in Downers Grove, Illinois, will also feature world-class athletes. Although not technically sanctioned by the UCI, the professional road and time trial championships will offer UCI points as national championship events recognized by the international governing body. As criterium racing is not currently a UCI discipline, no UCI points are available in Downers Grove.
2007 USA Cycling Professional Tour
Feb. 18-25: AMGEN Tour of California California (2.HC)
Apr. 7: U.S. Cycling Open Richmond, Va. (1.1)
Apr. 16-22: Tour de Georgia Georgia (2.HC)
June 3: Commerce Bank Lancaster Classic Lancaster, Pa. (1.1)
June 7: Commerce Bank Reading Classic Reading, Pa. (1.1)
June 10: Commerce Bank International Championship Philadelphia, Pa. (1.HC)
June 17: Austin Mens Invitational Austin, Texas (1.1)
June 23: Saturn Rochester Twilight Criterium Rochester, N.Y. (1.2)
June 30-July 7: Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Utah (2.2)
Aug. 19: USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships Downers Grove, Ill.
Sept. 1: The Cliffs USA Cycling Professional Time Trial Championships Greenville, S.C.
Sept. 3: The Cliffs USA Cycling Professional Road Championships Greenville, S.C.
Sept. 8: Univest Grand Prix Souderton, Pa. (1.2)
Sept. 11-16: Tour of Missouri Missouri (2.1)
Sept. 15: Tour de Leelanau Traverse City, Mich. (1.2)