Gila seeking funds for women's UCI race

The Tour of the Gila announced earlier this year that the 2015 women's race would be sanctioned by the UCI and it has a spot on the international calendar. Now the 29-year-old race in New Mexico needs to raise $100,000 to make it happen.

“At least,” said race director Jack Brennan regarding the amount of money needed. “We're working on it. A lot of it is putting money toward the travel for women's teams, which aren't as financially deep as men's teams. So I think that's one area we really want to work on, is obtaining money so we can invite the team's here and to try and invite as many teams as we can get.”

Brennan told Cyclingnews the loose deadline for raising the money is the end of this month.

“We always say by the end of December, but we'll see,” he said. “We're working on things. We're working with a company out of Durango called Verde Brand Communications. They're helping us look for money. Verde is an incredible company to work with. They are very enthusiastic about our race. The owner raced our 3-4 race last year.”

Despite the added pressure to raise more funds for the Tour of the Gila, which has had UCI sanctioning for the men since 2012, Brennan said earning UCI status for the women's race has been a longtime goal for himself and the race.

“I just think it's a win-win situation for everybody involved to go and try to do a UCI race in this country,” he said. “It's more exposure for women, which I think is really great. I just think the time was right to apply and get on the UCI calendar for women.”

With the Olympics on the horizon in 2016 and the World Championships taking place next year in Richmond, Virginia, teams and countries are looking for races where they can acquire UCI points. Gila will join the Joe Martin Stage Race and the new Tour of California women's stage race as the latest additions to women's UCI opportunities in North America.

The 2015 North American road calendar includes seven ranked races for elite women – up from just four one-day races in 2014. Joe Martin will be ranked 2.2 for women, as will the Tour of the Gila. The new Amgen Tour of California stage race, a three-day event, will be ranked 2.1.

The three new UCI races will form a nice block of competition in late April and early May, and Brennan is hoping European teams will find it worthwhile to make the trip across the Atlantic to race in the US.

“I think with the Tour of California adding a women's UCI race, it's really big,” Brennan said. “That could be really helpful for us. There's Joe Martin that ends on a Sunday, we start the following Wednesday and end on Sunday, and the Tour of California starts the following Friday. You can do three races, come over and really chase a lot of UCI points. The more races we have, the more exposure we get. I think it works pretty well for cycling.”

With the women's World Cup race Flèche Wallonne taking place the same day Joe Martin begins, it's unclear how much European interest there will be in the US races. But Brennan said he has received requests for information and applications from several European teams. Brennan expects to send out invitations for the race in January.

Aside from the three new stage races, there will be four one-day events in North America in 2015: The Winston-Salem Classic returns as a 1.2-ranked event, as does the Canadian White Spot/Delta Road Race. The Chrono Gatineau and Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau will be ranked 1.1, and the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic will be part of the re-branded women's World Cup, to be known as the Women’s Professional Road Cycling Series in 2015.

It will be the first Women's UCI World Cup in North America since the Montreal World Cup ended in 2009, and the first in Philadelphia since the Liberty Classic was last part of the World Cup in 2001.

The pressure is on in New Mexico to raise the funds. Brennan said getting on the calendar before the money is in hand has been the Tour of the Gila's “M.O.” for some time, and it has worked out so far.

“We always have issues with funding,” Brennan said. “Again, we're in not a very wealthy state and not a very wealthy county, and we're putting on an incredible UCI race for men, now a UCI race for women. And we put on six other amateur races. So I think we bring a lot to cycling with what we're doing down here.

“You know we've always had a women's race,” Brennan said. “This is our 29th Tour of the Gila, and we've only missed one year for the women. We've always been on the NRC for women for years. We put together an incredible race for women. The feedback on Tour of the Gila is always that it's the hardest race in North America and the Gila Monster is the hardest day. So we have a quality event going.

"We've been slowly building what we do here, and the next logical step was to go UCI for the women. But we need help. You always need help to do these things, and that help is money, so that's what we need.”

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.