Now in its fourth year, the Tour of Shenandoah - slated for April 25-30- consistently attracts one of the youngest average age fields among top-level races. Acting on this fact, and looking at trends in the USA bicycle racing scene, the event's organizers have decided to give greater emphasis to the Under 25 age group riders. "The Tour of Shenandoah will become the international showcase for North America's emerging talent," said executive director, Matt Butterman, announcing this year's course and race details during a press conference in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
"We are starting to style the race on events like the Tour de l'Avenir in Europe, with a maximum rider age of 25 years and with professional, amateur and national teams," said Butterman. For 2006, at least, older riders will be permitted to participate, but eventually the age cap will take effect as the number of young riders swells to fill the field quota.
This year in addition to the race leader's jersey in the General Classification, additional race leader jerseys will be awarded to the best Under 23 rider and the best Collegiate rider. "More and more pro teams are realizing the value of having a development squad, and we provide the perfect event for these young riders not only to have a taste of being a team leader, but also to get the feeling of competing in a proper road stage race," explained Butterman.
The race format consists of time trials, criteriums, and some stages including mountain climbs, with the 2005 edition visiting Dayton, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Hot Springs, Staunton, Lexington, Bedford, Natural Bridge, and Waynesboro. Many cyclists including last year's Tour of Shenandoah winner, Roman Kilun (Berkeley, Calif), and local hero and name-to-watch at this year's race, the US national mountain bike team member, Jeremiah Bishop (Harrisonburg, Va) have compared the format of the event to European races.
Moreover, many of the venues will have activities for children. A bike rodeo is in the works for kids and bicycle helmets will be given away as part of the Virginia Department of health's "Bike Safe Virginia" program. "We encourage people to bring out the family, as it's a very exciting event for people to watch and makes a great day out," added Butterman.