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Armstrong, Leipheimer may return to New Mexico
RadioShack has added its name to the list of ProTour teams that will send riders to this year's SRAM Tour of the Gila. Team director Johan Bruyneel confirmed that the squad will send three representatives to the five-day race, to be held in New Mexico, USA, April 28-May 2.
Bruyneel confirmed the addition of the race to the RadioShack race calendar in his blog. He indicated that American riders from the team's roster will use the hilly Gila course to prepare for the Amgen Tour of California, which begins a fortnight later.
"It's a late addition [to our race calendar], but we need to get some of our Americans racing before the AMGEN Tour of California," wrote Bruyneel. "Plus, it's a race that SRAM has put a lot of support behind, so we're happy that it fits within our schedule to support them and cycling in the US. So look for us at the end of the month in New Mexico."
According to UCI code 2.1.009 the ProTour outfit is not permitted to start a full team however, three of its riders wearing non-ProTour team clothing is permitted by the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI).
The code prohibits ProTour 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.
"There are no changes to that rule," said Andrea Smith of USA Cycling. "Any Pro Tour riders contesting national-level events still have to ride under a different team name, in a different jersey and there can't be more than three of them in a particular event.
Last year, Armstrong, Leipheimer and Horner raced under Armstrong's Austin-based bike shop Mellow Johnny's. Bruyneel did not state which three American riders would be participating in the event this year.
Team RadioShack has six American riders that include Armstrong, Leipheimer and Horner along with Matthew Busche, Jason McCartney and Bjorn Selander.
"I don't know what 'team' means," said Race Director Jack Brennan. "It would be my guess that they are sending three riders again. It's really cool. The three guys that showed up last year were a really fun group. It's nice that they came last year and to have them once was really good. To have them come back again feels great."
Organizers hope that Armstrong, Leipheimer and Horner will return, adding that their presence at the five-day stage race boasted the economy and tourism in the small town of Silver City. Furthermore, it gave much needed credibility to the long-standing event when tough economic times nearly caused its collapse.
"We think the race must be a good quality, something that they enjoyed and wanted to come back and the fact that they are making the effort to do that is very reassuring, " Brennan said. "Last year the announcement came the day before the start of the race and now something is happening two weeks out so maybe more people will be able to schedule a trip into Silver City."
"Having them here really did help tourism here in Silver City," Brennan said. "That is what we are trying to get across to the community, that this bike race does bring tourism to New Mexico and Silver City because of the cycling community and it shows that we have some incredible cycling potential here in this area. We've been sold out of hotels for a couple of weeks now."
The ProTour team Garmin-Transitions will also field three riders Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Danny Pate who will compete under Zabriskie's company name DZ Nuts.