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Tour of California to debut early 2006

At an official press conference at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. on Friday, March 25, an eight-day, 700-mile UCI-sanctioned stage race, to be known as the Tour of California, was unveiled. With a possible start date of February 2006, presenter and promoter AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) signalled a US$35 million commitment over the next five years, with the intention of making the race America's premier cycling event.

Hein Verbruggen, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), was in attendance, and said that although he did not yet know what UCI ranking the event would have, "it would be a good one" he told Cyclingnews.

"The creation of the Tour of California race is very important for the continued worldwide development of our sport on both a fan and athlete level. It is clear that the Continental Calendar will be richer with the addition of this new event," continued Verbruggen, who has made his intentions very clear on his plans to 'globalise' the sport of cycling..

Details about the actual race route and confirmed participants will be released at a later date, however, the San Francisco Bay Area, along with Los Angeles, Monterey and Santa Barbara have been mentioned as likely sites, and organisers envisage up to 18 professional cycling teams from around the world taking part in the event. According to the press release, the Tour of California will see the race visit "the northern California redwoods and wine country along the Pacific Ocean coastline, before concluding amid a true southern California setting".

Said President and CEO of the Los Angeles-based event production group AEG, Timothy J. Leiweke: "the time is clearly right for AEG to develop this exciting property which we believe will become the premier American cycling event. It will take some years to reach the level we want, to be one of the two or three best cycling events in the world, [and] we see making a $35M commitment over five years because we know it will take time," he said to Cyclingnews.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has designated the state's Secretary of Education, Richard Riordan, to act as his liaison to the event, while AEG has named Robert Colarossi managing director of the Tour of California, who shall be responsible for overseeing all race-related details, including marketing, sponsorship sales and broadcast contracts. Negotiations are currently underway with several broadcast networks to produce a nightly highlight show and weekend programming of live race coverage, in addition to international distribution.

"The birth of another great event here in the US demonstrates the popularity and growth of the sport nationwide," commented CEO of USA Cycling, Gerard Bisceglia, his first words referring to the Dodge Tour of Georgia. "Surely the Tour of California would attract top international and domestic teams."

Negotiations are currently underway with several broadcast networks to produce a nightly highlight show and weekend programming of live race coverage in addition to international distribution. The event's title sponsor, as well as other marketing and promotional partners, will be announced at a future date.

More information: www.tourofcalifornia.com

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