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Budget problems scuttle plans for stage race
Race organizers of the International Tour de Toona were forced to reduce the seven-day professional women's stage race down to a one-day criterium held on August 29th in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
"Unfortunately we were unable to secure the funding needed to pull off the seven-day event as well as we wanted to, so we will be hosting a one-day criterium event," said Pam Snyder, event spokesperson. "We are already working towards returning to a stage race in 2011, but we simply got a late start this year and were unable to make up the ground."
The event will host a 65-kilometre criterium for both the Pro, 1 men and Pro, 1-2 women held on an eight-corner, 1.6-kilometre circuit. Each field will be racing for a cash purse of $10,000.
After a two-year hiatus race organizers announced the return of the prestigious International Tour de Toona as a women's seven-stage race that was scheduled to take place from August 23-29. A three-day professional men's event was to be held in conjunction with the final weekend of the women's race.
"I've always loved that race and I'm very disappointed that they couldn't get it back on the calendar, or had it on the calendar but canceled it," said Lisa Hunt, directeur sportif of the Vera Bradley Foundation. "It is one of the best stage races in the country so it is a disappointment. I'm not surprised because they have had such difficulty with sponsorship in the past, but I was hopeful."
Organizers were expecting a large women's peloton including HTC-Columbia because it offered challenging stages that included an inaugural mountain finish atop the famed Blue Knob ascent. Furthermore, the race had historically highlighted the women's race as the marquee event and offered equal prize money and race distances as the professional men's category.
"I was hoping to send a full team," Hunt said. "It wasn't in our schedule initially so I was going to have to scramble to come up with the additional funds to take the team because it is such a great race and all the girls wanted to do it."
The International Tour de Toona was first staged in 1987 and billed as one of America's toughest stage races. In 2008, it was reduced to a single-day criterium and cancelled the following year due to a lack of funding. Former winners of the women's race include Karen Bliss, Linda Jackson, Genevieve Jeanson, Lyne Bessette, Christine Thorburn and Kristin Armstrong.