State of race promoting in the US: Up or down?

The American racing calendar for 2007 has grown larger compared to previous years, with more higher-rated events coming onto the scene. These events range from new events with new promoters to older events elevating to a new level. This upsurge could represent a change in the share for cycling amidst the highly competitive American sports sponsorship market. However, the financial stability of some of these races has recently come into question, with a few announcing postponement until 2008 due to sponsor issues. Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski spoke with these and other top promoters in the nation to get a sense of the state of cycling promotions in the country and what may be ahead in the future.

2006 was an all-too-typical roller-coaster year in terms of race promotions and sponsorships on the North American calendar. The Tour of California burst onto the scene as a new race with a lot of money from the title sponsor Amgen. (Every rider received a free iPod for starting!) This was followed by an uncertain Tour de Georgia that was trying to replace its title sponsor of two years. Fortunately the Georgia Ford Dealers Association stepped in to take over, but only for one year. Next, the annual race known as 'Philly week' suffered a blow, losing both the national championships and their title sponsor of more than two decades without much notice. But like Georgia, the race managed to secure enough eleventh-hour sponsorships and funding from the local and state governments to stay afloat.

All things considered, even with the uncertainty surrounding some major races, 2006 ended up a successful season in terms of U.S. based racing - and things looked bright for 2007. Sponsors were coming back in Philly and California, races like Georgia had commitments from local governments, and seven new races were on the UCI America Tour calendar. The new additions included both existing races like the upgraded Tour of Utah, and completely new races like the US Open Championships in Virginia, the Austin Invitational and the Tour of Missouri.

USA Cycling was encouraging the developments by creating a new tier of racing in the country called the USA Cycling Professional Tour, consisting of all the UCI sanctioned races. USA Cycling's CEO Steve Johnson agreed that the increase in high-level events was a positive sign. "The creation of this calendar signifies a major step forward in the evolution of our sport at the highest level within our own borders."

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