On Wednesday, USA Cycling announced the creation of the USA Cycling Professional Tour, in an aim to recognise the top international-caliber UCI professional teams and riders. The series of 15 races will include all races on the current UCI calendar, plus three USA Cycling professional national championships for a total of 40 days of racing.
The goal of the Professional Tour is to acknowledge international competition in the USA and the events that have made the commitment to host UCI-sanctioned races that feature UCI-registered professional teams and riders. To that end, the USA Cycling Professional Tour will crown an overall champion based on points at the end of the 2007 series.
"We're thrilled that with the growth of world-class cycling in the United States, we're now able to recognize a season-long calendar of major international events," commented Steve Johnson, chief executive officer of USA Cycling. "The creation of this calendar signifies a major step forward in the evolution of our sport at the highest level within our own borders."
In the past, many of the events on the USA Cycling Professional Tour have been a part of the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC), however with growing demand for inclusion on the NRC and the continued increase in the number of internationally-sanctioned events in the USA, two calendars with two distinct purposes are now viable. The NRC will remain open to both professional and club-level teams to feature a "Pro-Am" atmosphere.
The separation of UCI-sanctioned events and the National Racing Calendar is a change welcomed by pro team managers, race promoters and riders alike.
"The new model created by USA Cycling simplifies racing in America and creates a nice synergy between the two calendars," explained TIAA-CREF team manager Jonathan Vaughters. "The USA Cycling Professional Tour creates a simple way to determine the best rider that competes in the United States while the retention of the NRC allows for a team manager like myself to identify up and coming talent."
"To ensure the depth of talent here in the United States continues to grow," continued Johnson. "Our riders need to compete against world-class competitors from around the globe. Continued emphasis on top-level international competition on USA soil through the development of the USA Cycling Professional Tour will help to make this a reality."
2007 USA Cycling Professional Tour
February 18-25: AMGEN Tour of California - California
April 14: USA Cycling Open - Richmond, Va.
April 16-22: Tour de Georgia - Georgia
June 3: Commerce Bank Lancaster Classic - Lancaster, Pa.
June 7: Commerce Bank Reading Classic - Reading, Pa.
June 10: Commerce Bank International Championship - Philadelphia, Pa.
June 17: Austin Men's Invitational - Austin, Texas
June 23: Saturn Rochester Twilight Criterium - Rochester, N.Y.
August 12-19: Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah - Utah
August 19: USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships - Downer's Grove, Ill.
September 1: The Cliffs USA Cycling Professional Time Trial Championships - Greenville, S.C.
September 3: The Cliffs USA Cycling Professional Road Championships - Greenville, S.C.
September 8: Univest Grand Prix - Souderton, Pa.
September 11-16: Tour of Missouri - Missouri
September 15: Tour de Leelanau - Traverse, City, Mich.