The National Racing Calendar (NRC) Tour de Toona was forced to reduce from an originally scheduled six-day event to a four-day stage race due to a lack of community support from two of the participating towns. According to race director Larry Bilotto, despite the loss of two stages, there will be a quality field in attendance raring to take on the mountainous race held from July 6-10 in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
The two stages that were cancelled included the stage one 100 kilometre circuit race located in the city of Hollidaysburg and the stage four 122.8km circuit race in Martinsburg. Both stages have played a key role in the overall classification during previous years.
"We are very disappointed having to cancel the Martinsburg and Hollidaysburg Races," Bilotto said. "They were two of the best and most fun to run. The whole thing comes down to cooperation from all levels of municipal assistance, from the community for the venue, to all of the others that we pass through, and the marshals on the corners. In this case, we had some areas decide not to jump right in and participate and we had to make some decisions to cut our losses and put our energies into those races and venues that are doable."
The race will now begin on July 6 with a 4.8km individual time trial in downtown Altoona and continue on July 7 with a brand new stage one 116.8km course with a mountaintop finish on the famed Blue Knob.
After a rest day on July 8, the racing will continue with the stage two road race that will start and finish in Altoona for a total of 147.5kms and will also include the ascent over Blue Knob. The race will conclude on July 10 at the Downtown Altoona Criterium, where both fields will complete for a total of 56kms.
The event was well known for offering equal prize money for the men's and women's field. It is returning after a three-year hiatus is once again committed to equal prize money for equal distances raced. Organizers are offering a total of $110,308, split evenly between the women's and men's field at $55,154 each.
With a large prize list and valuable points offered toward the NRC ranking, Bilotto is expecting a quality field. The event will offer four categories with a yellow leader's jersey, red King and Queen of the Mountain leader, green sprint leader and white best young rider jersey.
"The Pro numbers are down, but the quality appears to be right up there," Bilotto said. "Looking forward to this year's new stage and watching the athletes attack and conquer the mountain. A true European-style race with a mountain top finish."
There are currently 78 women registered to compete in the Pro-Category 1, 2 race. Riders who will no doubt make an impact on the stage race include US National Road Champion Robin Farina and her teammate Anne Samplonius (Now-Novartis for MS), Tara Whitten (Tibco-To the Top), guest riders Alisha Welsh and Emily Collins (Danbury Audi), Rhae Shaw (Rouse Bicycles), Lex Albrecht and Denis Ramsden (Juvederm-Specialized), Rushlee Buchanan and Janel Holcomb (Colavita Forno D'Asolo),
There are currently 73 riders confirmed to start Pro-Category 1 men's race. Strong contenders from stage wins and overall placing include Scott Lyttle (Pure Black Racing), Ben Jacques-Maynes, Frank Pipp and Eric Young (Bissell), Brett Tivers and Arnaud Papillon (Garneau Club Chaussures), Joseph Rosskopf and Ty Magner (Team Type 1 Development).