By Shane Stokes
Announced last year as a major new event on the ProTour calendar, there are indications that the Tour of Sochi in Russia may not take place in 2009.
"We have a meeting of the CUPT [UCI ProTour Council] next week where we will discuss the Tour of Russia, and will make an announcement after that," UCI President Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Wednesday.
The UCI has been waiting for a definite word from the organisers as to whether the race will go ahead. The drop in value of the rouble, the economic crisis gripping Russia plus the fall in the price of oil are thought to be factors, even though it was announced in July that a 30 million euro per annum budget had been planned for Russian cycling. Just over half of this was earmarked for the new Katusha team, with the remainder of the money due to be used for Russian cycling initiatives, including the Tour of Sochi and grassroots development.
It is not known if this budget has itself been reduced. Cyclingnews has contacted both the Russian Federation and UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf in order to seek clarification.
Rumpf has already given some comments to Eurosport.fr. "We must acknowledge that we no longer have much news from them," he said, referring to the organisers. "What is certain is that we can't wait much longer. A decision on our part has to be made quickly."
"Last year this project seemed to be easily put in place, but it is no longer like that."
The race had initially been scheduled for May but more recently, the UCI’s ProTour calendar had indicated that the date had yet to be finalised. There was speculation that it may be run in September instead, a later date which would conceivably make the 2009 edition possible if a quick decision is made to go ahead with it.
Cyclingnews will continue to follow this story.