Professional women's racing will make a comeback on the Tour of California stage, with the San Francisco Grand Prix criterium taking place the morning of the Tour's first stage.
The criterium will take place on a 1.4 mile circuit in downtown Sacramento on May 16, using portions of the Tour of California stage 1 finishing circuit. The race will also include a Pro-Am men's field for those riders not competing in the Tour of California.
"The Sacramento Grand Prix is emerging as one of the top women's cycling events in America and carries international athletic importance," followed Ryan Dawkins, president of Project Sport and race director of Sacramento Grand Prix. "With huge crowds expected in Sacramento the event promises to be exciting for both racers and cycling fans."
While a women's criterium at the Tour of California is not new, with editions having been contested in Santa Rosa in the past two years, the race was at risk of not happening when the organiser, AEG, could not find funds to hold it.
The Sacramento Sports Commission worked with Project Sport, LLC and the Amgen Tour of California to include the race after several years of discussions.
"We didn't come to this decision overnight,” said commission executive director John McCasey. “We have been talking for three years about this idea. Our LOC put Project Sport through a pretty thorough evaluation and Ryan Dawkins and his staff did a great job of presenting this concept and showing how nicely they could fit the three hour presentation into an already busy day of setup.
"We are excited to partner with Project Sport not only for this year but in going forward with the Sacramento Grand Prix in future years. They showed great patience and persistence."
The Grand Prix will offer fans a close look at the elite of women's cycling. The field of female competitors will feature members of the Peanut Butter & Co/Twenty12, assembled to develop cyclists for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, led by Kristin Armstrong, a 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist and the current World Time Trial Champion.
"I am very pleased that Project Sport is including a women's event in conjunction with the Tour's men's race," said Nicola Cranmer, General Manager of the Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12 team. "It's my hope that this partnership could develop into a great stage race for the women too.
"It's critical to our sponsors that women's racing gets the attention it deserves and is able to take advantage of the great media impressions that the Amgen Tour of California affords. Women's racing is dynamic and exciting. I can assure you the cyclists will put on a great show for the spectators and the City of Sacramento."