By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
This year's Tour de 'Toona, one of the longest-running stage races in North America, is adding a unique twist to the race by beginning with a 17.1km team time trial along a soon-to-be-opened stretch of highway in south central Pennsylvania.
"We had one back in 1992 when we had the Olympic Trials," said interim race director Larry Bilotto. "At that time we did it on a section of what became I-99 and this year we are doing it 60 miles north of that on a soon-to-be-opened section of I-99."
The parcours for the TTT will be wide and smooth, as the highway will eventually be home to 18-wheeled trucks and other high-speed traffic. "PennDot has been building from Altoona to State College," said Bilotto. "It's a corridor that everyone is excited to see and we are able to use it free from traffic for a 10-mile loop."
While the cyclists will certainly enjoy this rare treat of riding on a completely traffic-free, 24-foot wide section of superhighway, the 4% grade up two miles will separate the teams. "I've heard indirectly that several of the teams are excited to be doing this," said Bilotto. The winning team will elect a team leader to wear the yellow jersey for the first road stage.