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International Tour de ‘Toona returns

Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) rode to a close second place.

Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) rode to a close second place. (Image credit: Tom Ewart)

After multiple race cancellations hope is on the horizon for the women’s peloton, with the International Tour de ‘Toona scheduled to take place August 23-29 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Organisers will test run the seven-stage race after a two-year hiatus with the aim to bring it back to the National Racing Calendar (NRC) in 2011.

This year the race will return as a seven-day women’s stage race and will include a three-day event for the men during the final weekend. “We love the race and want to continue the tradition started over 20 years ago,” said race director Larry Bilotto. “It is also an economic boost for the area, along with introducing the area to outsiders and the sport to insiders. The USCF will consider putting it back on [the NRC] through the bid process if we are successful this year.”

Organisers have historically highlighted the women’s race as the marquee event and have offered equal prize money and race distance as the professional men’s category. It’s an element of the event that’s not lost on the athletes, according to Team Vera Bradley Foundation’s Alison Powers.

“That is one thing that has been so amazing with ‘Toona was that it had equal prize money and distances and it was probably the only race to do that in all the world,” said Powers. “Me, and I’m sure the rest of the rest of the women’s peloton, really hope that ‘Toona comes back, because it was the really one of the hardest and best races for women on the calendar.”

The women’s racing will kick off with the Downtown Altoona five-kilometre individual time trial on August 23 and then move into the hills for the stage two Vintondale to Cairnbrook Road Race on August 24. Stage three will include a new mountain-top finish atop the famed Blue Knob ascent in the Laurel Hill State Park to Blue Knob All Season Resort Road Race on August 25.

The weekend’s racing will begin for the men, and continue for the women, at two back-to-back circuit races - the Hollidaysburg Road Race and Martinsburg Road Race, to be held on August 27 and 28, respectively. The International Tour de Toona will conclude for all categories with the fast and technical Intown Criterium, which will be held at the Heritage Plaza on August 29.

The International Tour de Toona was first staged in 1987 and billed as one of America’s toughest stage races for two decades. In 2008, it was reduced to a single-day criterium and cancelled the following year due to a lack of funding.

Former winners of the race include Karen Bliss, Linda Jackson, Lyne Bessette, Genevieve Jeanson and Kristin Armstrong. Previous winners in the professional men’s race include Michael Engleman, Scott Moninger, Tom Danielson, John Lieswyn, Gord Fraser and Danny Pate.

The women’s peloton has endured multiple cancelations to its race calendar recently, including three Canadian International Cycling Union (UCI) sanctioned events: the Montreal World Cup, Tour du Grand Montreal and Tour of PEI.

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