Optimism the theme of North American UCI calendar

The UCI has set aside dates for 14 North American races in 2010, three of which were canceled in 2009 due to sponsorship difficulties. Can these races make a comeback next year? Cyclingnews spoke with the organisers of the US Open of Cycling, the Tour de New York and a representative of the Tour de Georgia foundation about the initiatives to make these races a reality again.

The North American UCI calendar has twice as many races lined up for 2010 as were held this year, with dates reserved for 14 men's and 5 women's races in the US and Canada. Yet several of the events are ones which have faced funding

Beginning with the newly-UCI classified Tour of the Battenkill, the next event on the list is the Tour de Georgia - one of our comeback trio.

The one-day Air Force Cycling Classic follows with the relocated Tour of California three weeks later. The Nations Cup in Canada is next, overlapping with the Philadelphia International Championship.

A newcomer to the calendar is "La visite chrono de Gatineau" in Canada, which precedes the Tour de Beauce, and has been classified as UCI 1.2 for both men and women.

Trying to return is the U.S. Open of Cycling, following a two-year absence, and the Tour de New York, both of which did not go off as planned this year. They are slotted in mid-summer.

The Tour of Missouri gets bumped up a week earlier to make room for the new ProTour events, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal in September.

These races flank the Univest Grand Prix, which, despite being one of only seven UCI races in the entire continent this year overlapped with Missouri.

Univest GP organiser John Eustice told Cyclingnews that Univest will once again be a 2.2 stage race, rather than the 1.2 one-day currently listed on the UCI calendar using the same formula as this year.

"It will be a 2.2 with the Friday in Allentown and Saturday in Souderton comprising the 2-day UCI race, and the "post-tour" Univest Criterium in Doylestown on Sunday. It does not seem to be a conflict with Tour of Missouri this year, so we expect a stronger pro field," said Eustice.

On the women's side, the UCI races continue to be mainly in Canada - the Montréal World Cup and Grand Tour du Montréal kick off the racing ahead of the Tour de PEI and ends with La visite chrono de Gatineau. Sandwiched in between is the Liberty Classic, which overlaps with the start of the Tour de PEI.

David Chauner, organiser of the Liberty Classic, confirmed that the date on the UCI calendar is incorrect. It will be run the same day as the Philadelphia International on June 6, not on the 5th.

US Open date still uncertain

The US Open of Cycling had its first and only race in 2007. The springtime event from Williamsburg to Richmond, Virgina should have been a big boost to the US racing scene, with live television broadcasts of the event on a major television network and a quality field. However, mother nature did not cooperate, and an early morning snow delayed the race and caused headaches for the riders.

Race director Richard Durishin moved the event north to Providence, Rhode Island and set up the US Open Foundation, where he is now the executive director. The late change of venue forced the race to be postponed in 2008. The 2009 event never materialized after the economic downturn made it difficult to secure sponsorship.

But Durishin said he was "optimistic" that the race would go off next year, but is anxious to get the exact date nailed down so that he can present it to potential sponsors. The UCI currently has the race slotted in on July 4, but that date coincides with the Fitchburg-Longsjo stage race, which is not UCI but is on USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar. USA Cycling is working with the UCI to negotiate a change to May 8.

"We're working on getting sponsors at the moment, but the indecision surrounding the date of our race is making it difficult. If we were a 1.1 race, July 4 would be OK because we wouldn't be competing as much for teams with Fitchburg-Longsjo. But as a 1.2, we would be attracting many of the same riders, and I wouldn't want to compete with Fitchburg - it's a classic and such a great race."

Tour de New York on track

Tour de New York executive director Scott Page also expressed optimism that grand plans to expand the former Rochester omnium into a six-day stage race, which had been planned for this year, will materialize in 2010. Page scuttled the plans for the August event in May so that he could secure proper funding.

"The economic downturn just killed New York state, but it seems to be turning around, and I think next year will be much better. We're working on sponsorship now, and things are coming along fairly well. We're still looking six days, starting with a criterium in Rochester, a time trial and four road stages.

"The main objective is to make the race gorgeous. New York has so many beautiful places, and some of the best roads in the country. This year's race will be centered mainly around the Finger Lakes region. The climbs there are brutal - we may not have a 10,000 foot climb, but thrown in ten 1,000 foot climbs and it adds up to be a very difficult race."

In the future, Page hopes to expand the race to take in the Appalachian and Catskill mountains.

Can Georgia bring back the race?

The Tour de Georgia, a major event on the North American calendar since 2003, but after two years of last-minute sponsorship rescues it lost its struggle to continue this year.

However, the race still holds its April slot on the UCI calendar, and Georgia's Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle is still the chairman of the race's board of directors. Since the cancelation of the 2009 edition, the Tour de Georgia web site has been converted into a fundraising site called "Bring back the Race".

According to Brooks Binder, an attorney that represents the non-profit organisation that owns the Tour de Georgia, the funds donated through the web site haven't been enough to bring back the race yet, but work is in progress to secure sponsorship.

"There are still a lot of elements that need to come together. It would be fantastic for cycling in the US to have this race back - the scene on Brasstown Bald was like any in the Tour de France. We're optimistic we can make this happen again. There is a lot of interest, but we have a lot of work to do."

Former race organiser Medalist Sports is "currently not involved in the initiative to bring back the race", said Chris Aronhalt, a managing partner at Medalist Sports.

Aronhalt confirmed that Medalist is currently organising the 2010 Tour of Missouri, a race which nearly was canceled this year due to political turmoil within that state. But Aronhalt believes that the issues will be solved in order for the 2010 race to go forward.

"The race continued to surpass our expectations in 2009, and we're still planning the 2010 race with the same timelines and are optimistic that it will go on as expected."

2010 North American UCI races

*April 18, 2010 - Tour of the Battenkill, USA, 1.2
#April 20-25, 2010 - Tour de Georgia USA 2.HC
May 2, 2010 - Air Force Cycling Classic USA 1.2
May 16-23, 2010 - Amgen Tour of California USA 2.HC
June 3-6, 2010 - Coupe des nations Ville Saguenay CAN 2.Ncup
June 6, 2010 - Philadelphia International Championship USA 1.HC
*June 12, 2010 - La visite chrono de Gatineau CAN 1.2
June 15-20, 2010 - Tour de Beauce CAN 2.2
#July 4, 2010 - U.S. Open of Cycling USA 1.2
#August 7-12, 2010 - Tour de New York USA 2.2
August 30-September 5, 2010 - Tour of Missouri USA 2.HC
September 11, 2010 - Univest Grand Prix USA 1.2
*September 10, 2010 - Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec CAN UPT
*September 12, 2010 - Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal CAN UPT

Women's races

May 29, 2010 - Coupe du Monde de cyclisme féminin CAN CDM
May 21 - June 3, 2010 - Tour du Grand Montréal CAN 2.1
June 5, 2010 - Liberty Classic USA 1.1
June 6-10, 2010 - Tour de Pei CAN 2.2
*June 12, 2010 - La visite chrono de Gatineau CAN 1.2

* - New race
# - Was not held in 2009

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