Amgen Tour of California organiser Andrew Messick called on the new, younger generation of professional cyclists to step into the limelight after Lance Armstrong announced his retirement from the sport.
The 39-year-old Armstrong announced his second retirement - he previously quit in 2005 only to return in 2008 - yesterday to AP, meaning his last professional race appearance was the Santos Tour Down Under. It had been expected that he would ride both the Amgen Tour of California and Colorado's Quiznos Pro Challenge later in the year.
"I think that for a number of years we've never relied on one single individual and over the last few years there have been a number of charismatic guys who are extraordinarily relevant because of the Tour de France, world championships or Olympic Games and we expect to continue that," Messick told Cyclingnews.
"In addition, this year we'll be in a position to showcase an emerging generation of talent like Peter Sagan, Taylor Phinney, Tejay Van Garderen and a number of guys who really represent the future of the sport. They're guys who are young and who are really starting to have an impact on the sport of cycling.
"We'll be showcasing the next generation with all their ambitions to do well and to win and it will be interesting to see if this is the year that the torch is passed from the Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie generation to the Phinney, Sagan, and Porte generation."
It's all about the bike
Despite his retirement from cycling, Armstrong is still the figure of a Federal investigation into doping allegations made against him and his former US Postal team, by Floyd Landis.
The allegations were first publicised during last year's race and for several days, the racing played second fiddle as the press turned their attention from the finish line to surrounding the RadioShack team bus for a comment from Armstrong. With Armstrong now out of the picture in terms of racing, the event will be able to avoid any major storm should Armstrong have ridden and the federal investigation moved forward against him.
"I wouldn't say the race was overshadowed but it certainly became for a few days, at least, the dominant story and it was the bulk of the story that the US mainstream media focussed and reported on," Messick said.
"But for this year Lance was, by his own account, going to the Tour of California to ride in support of Levi Leipheimer so I don't think he had personal goals in winning the race or getting a result. With regards to his appeal, he's an enormously charismatic guy and he's the kind of person who has an appeal beyond the sport of cycling because of all the work he's done in fighting cancer over the years and we'll miss him."
No dispute over fee
Messick was quick to point out that Armstrong had never received either a donation to his foundation or an individual race fee in the two years he had raced the Amgen Tour of California. All ProTeams are guaranteed team fees for racing under UCI regulations, with one team manager confirming to Cyclingnews that they received in the region of $10,000 last year.
"We never paid an appearance fee to Lance and there was never a donation to the foundation. We don't pay them. We're the most important race in the United States and there are lots of other people with important reasons who want to be at our event."
As for Armstrong's ability to draw the general public to the race and the possible revenue and media exposure lost off the back of his appearance Messick said, "It's a very hard thing to calculate and I don't want to speculate but he certainly had the unique and special appeal. But like I said, we're going to have great teams and great riders with riders in their early 20s who will try and win the race."
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