New Mexico's Tour of the Gila could face cancellation this year if the race can't quickly replace the title sponsor that withdrew support this month.
The UCI 2.2 race is scheduled to begin on April 29, and organisers have given themselves one week to find the sponsorship dollars that would allow the race to continue this year. The 29-year-old event has received UCI status for its women's event for the first time this year, while the men's race has been a UCI event since 2012.
Organisers announced a “call to action” this week to help find a title sponsor that would allow the event to continue. The race is seeking approximately $40,000. The Tour of the Gila faced a similar crisis in 2009 before SRAM stepped in as the title sponsor. Race director Jack Brennan is hoping a similar “angel sponsor” will come forward this year.
“Once the word went out, the cycling community rose to the occasion and the race became one of the most successfully attended races in Gila’s history,” Brennan said of the 2009 event. “This is a grassroots event that relies largely on the unparalleled support of the Silver City community, which is a major feat in a town of 10,000 people.”
Brennan said making the announcement was very difficult, but race organisers believed it was important to get the word out as soon as possible about the race's difficult situation.
“We’ve always been known for being able to pull off a lot for a little, and the door is open for a few companies or individuals to obtain a title sponsorship for this year,” he said.
Tour of the Gila competition director Mike Engelman encouraged potential sponsors to reach out to the race as soon as possible.
“We are committed to making this legendary race a reality, and we have given ourselves one week to find the funds,” Engleman said.
Some of the teams scheduled to participate in this year's race include UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s men’s and women’s teams, Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, Drapac Professional Cycling, Team Venezuela, TWENTY16, Team SmartStop, Silber Pro Cycling, H&R Block and Orgullo Antioqueño, among others.
Carter Jones, who rides for Giant-Alpecin this year, won the men’s race last year, while Mara Abbott, riding for UnitedHealthcare, won the women’s race for the second consecutive year.
Other past winner include Jonathan Vaugters, Burke Swindlehurst, Scott Moninger, Levi Leipheimer, Rory Sutherland and Phil Deignan. Past women’s winners include Jeannie Longo, Genevieve Jeanson, Kristin Armstrong an Clara Hughes.
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