SRAM Tour of the Gila organizer Jack Brennan announced his decision to pull the five-stage race off the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar due to a lack of funding. The event will maintain its original status on USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar (NRC) and is still scheduled to take place from April 27 to March 1 in Silver City, New Mexico.
"When we applied to be on the UCI calendar last May we came up with a realistic budget and what we needed to do to raise the funds to cover what it requires to be a UCI 2.2 race," Brennan told Cyclingnews. "Our budget was solid and we needed to raise an additional amount."
"It was a big financial step up and we needed to find those additional funds and we just didn't get there," he added. "We put a realistic drop date at the end of the year. We didn't get there and we can't pursue it any longer because we have to move on and continue working on the race for this year. We got to January 1, we didn't have the funds so it was a fairly simple decision."
In its previous years as a national level event, the SRAM Tour of the Gila benefited from the attendance of Professional Continental and ProTeam level riders such seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner under the Mellow Johnny's banner. This year they returned with Jason McCartney along with Garmin-Transition riders Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Tom Peterson, who raced as DZ Nuts.
However, UCI President Pat McQuaid made it clear that the sport governing body will strictly enforce code 2.1.009 this year. The code prohibits ProTeam and Professional Continental teams from competing in national level events where only UCI Continental teams of the country, regional and club teams, national teams and mixed teams may participate. Professional Continental and ProTeam squads are only eligible to compete in UCI-sanctioned events.
"It could certainly affect our pro men's race by not being UCI," Brennan said. "But we are going to reach out to the Professional Continental teams in our country, Team Type 1 and UnitedHealthcare because there is a possibility that those types of teams can make it to our race."
According to Brennan, Professional Continental team may be eligible to contest his race by requesting a waiver from the UCI. Brennan attended a USA Cycling promoters meeting last November and was advised to reach out and invite both Professional Continental teams.
"They will need to apply for a waiver with the UCI, I've been told," Brennan said. "I don't know what the specific requirements are but I will need to reach out to those teams. Our title sponsor SRAM is big into pro teams with eight pro teams that they sponsor that they put a lot of money into. They want to see their riders at events like Tour of the Gila."
SRAM Tour of the Gila will continue to host seven category events and has filled to capacity for its category 4-5 field. The Professional/Elite men's and women's events will include jerseys for the overall leader, best sprinter, best young rider and king (and queen) of the mountain competitions.