On April 24, the seven-stage/six day 2007 Tour of Virginia begins with Stage 1, the Natural Bridge Individual Time Trial. The race starts with a full field of 29 teams and 150 riders -- an increase of 50% over 2006 -- as the event commences its fifth year.
Teams expected to animate the race are UCI Continental teams, Kodak Galleries/Sierra Nevada, Rite Aid, AEG-Toshiba, Priority Health/Bissell, Rock Racing, Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast, and Calyon/Litespeed (a development squad for the French Credit Agricole team)VMG (US U-23 development squad). But as always, watch out for surprises.
Matt Butterman, the event's executive director, said: "Not only is this the largest, but also it's the strongest field in the race's history. This year we are on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, and there's a depth in the talent list that we haven't seen before. Each team represented is bringing a very solid squad. With 29 teams, that's going to make for a very exciting race. No one team will be able to control the action, everything can change on any given day, and that's what makes our race really special. Let us not forget, too, that a number of riders and team managers have remarked that this is the most scenic course they have encountered in the USA, and it reminds many of racing in Europe."
Returning this year is the 2003-4 champion, Scottie Weiss, riding for AEG-Toshiba-Jet Network, who is looking for an historic third win. Last years General Classification winner, Brent Bookwalter, now riding for the National Development Squad, will unfortunately not be on the start line after suffering a severely broken left leg in a crash last week while racing in Europe.
Although a hilly race, the Tour of Virginia traditionally promises much for the sprinters. Sprinting sensation JJ Haedo will be off racing in Europe with the CSC team, but his brother Lucas is now racing in the US and will be coming to the Tour of Virginia with the brand new Rock Racing squad, managed by Frankie Andreu. So far Lucas Haedo has a slew of top five results in the USA to his credit.
Phil Southerland will be heading Team Type 1 Monitored by Freestyle, a team composed entirely of cyclists with diabetes. This is the first time in US, and possibly world history, that such a team has competed in a professional bicycle stage race. The members of this team are all seasoned professionals, and most have raced together before, but this exact lineup will unify for the first time in stage two, the Lynchburg Criterium.
For a full roster of this years entrants, and full stage information, please visit the Tour of Virginia website, www.tourofvirginia.com.