Tour of Alberta leaves $1.6 million wave of debt in its wake

Organisers still owe teams, vendors and staff as they initiate bankruptcy proceedings

The recently cancelled Tour of Alberta and the organisation that promoted the event for its five-year run still owe creditors more than $1.6 million (Canadian), according to bankruptcy documents Cyclingnews obtained this week.

The Alberta Peloton Association, the organisation formed specifically to promote the UCI 2.1 race, claimed $1,615,408 in outstanding liabilities against $19,410 of assets, all of which come from "machinery and equipment." The Alberta Peloton Association claims it has no cash on hand or any other assets, according to the documents.

Hotels for teams, staff and the large entourage necessary to put on the race make up the lion's share of the debt, with the Edmonton Westin, which housed the race entourage for multiple days in 2017 and 2016, owed $214,497, according to the document. Medallist Sports, the US company hired to manage the event, is owed $68,571.

Other major debts include $177,644 owed to television production company 3G Wireless, $27,198 owed to the City of Edmonton, $41,681 owed to a commercial tent rental company, $155,685 owed to M31 Design Group, $92,025 to television logistics company NEP and $65,880 owed to the World Triathlon Corporation, which shared a venue with the race in 2016.

The race debuted in 2013 to much fanfare in North America, supported initially by the province's ministry of culture and tourism as a way to show the area to a world-wide audience.

With a field that included six WorldTour teams and the up-and-coming Peter Sagan, the Tour of Alberta got off to a good start. The race featured a prologue and five stages, a format the race stuck with through 2016, when it dropped to five days and by then only attracted two WorldTour teams. A slowing economy for the province's once-booming oil industry took the blame. In 2017, the race dropped another day and another WorldTour team down to just one.

Despite the contractions, word around the race in 2017 was that a realigned board of directors and new executive director had righted the financial ship and the race was back on track and ready to start paying down the debt it had been accruing. That apparently wasn't the case.

Earlier this month, citing "current economic conditions and decreases in traditional funding sources," the Alberta Peloton Association announced it was ceasing operations and discontinuing any future planned events, including the 2018 race. According to a report on CBC.ca, the provincial government, which since 2013 provided more than $10 million in financial and in-kind support, decided to no longer fund the race.

Cyclingnews reached out to Alberta Peloton Association board chairman Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson by email Tuesday evening (MST) but has not yet received a reply.

The first meeting of creditors with bankruptcy trustee BDO Canada Limited will take place March 7 at 2 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, according to the documents.

Teams still owed prize money

Although they are not near the top of the list for the amount of money owed, multiple teams from the 2017 and 2016 races still haven't been paid the prize money they have coming, according to the document. Rally Cycling, which in 2017 finished first and second overall with Evan Huffman and Sepp Kuss, respectively, is still owed $19,620 after Huffman won the opening stage and wore yellow throughout the four-day race.

Cannondale-Drapac, racing this year as EF Education First-Drapac, is owed $16,697 after taking three stage wins and third overall with Alex Howes, according to the document.

Other teams and their prize-money-paying agents listed on the document as still being owed money include UnitedHealthcare ($2,795), Amore & Vita ($3,608), Axeon ($17,052), Elevate-KHS ($1,153), Holowesko-Citadel ($4,580), Medellin-Inder ($751), SkyDive Dubai ($3,951), Team Canada ($3,855) and Jelly Belly-Maxxis ($1,398). Amore & Vita, SkyDive Dubai, Team Canada and Axeon competed in the 2016 race but did not return for 2017.

"I'm not surprised, to be honest with you," Hagens Berman Axeon manager Axel Merckx told Cyclingnews after he was informed about the outstanding debts.

"We got a prize money check last year for 2016 because we didn't go last year, and when I went to the bank to cash it, their check bounced," Merckx said. "I contacted them and they told me they were trying to resolve the issue and to be patient because there was new management with a new director in place who was trying to make things work. A few weeks later I read that the Tour of Alberta was cancelled and didn't exist anymore. I was like, 'Well, that doesn't sound very good.'"

Merckx said the money owed to the team would have gone entirely to the riders and staff. 

"Those guys are counting on this and it motivates them even more, especially as every little extra bonus at the end of the year is always welcome by everybody," he said.

Count Holowesko-Citadel director Thomas Craven among the unsurprised as well. Robin Carpenter won the race for the team in 2016, but Craven said the Alberta Peloton Association didn't pay the team's 2016 prize money until just before the 2017 race.

"The year before they were calling me to do press conferences and stuff like that," Craven told Cyclingnews. "And I said, 'Dude, I'm not going to do a press conference until you guys pay me.' They were like, 'You haven't been paid yet?'

"We finally got paid just before the start of the race last year."

Told the race was filing for bankruptcy that could mean Holowesko won't collect the team's 2017 winnings, Craven looked for the silver lining.

"That's rough," he said. "I'm glad we didn't win."

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