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Tour of Utah removed from 2021 UCI calendar

The 2019 Tour of Utah overall jersey winners
2019 Tour of Utah overall jersey winners included Ben Hermans as GC winner and João Almeida as best young rider (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The delete button has apparently been punched on the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, sending reverberations across the North American racing scene for the coming year. The UCI updated its road calendar twice this month with event postponements and cancellations, and has removed the Tour of Utah from the 2021 schedule.

Tour of Utah, which has been a staple of the US stage racing scene for men’s teams since its inception in 2004, was scheduled to take place July 26 to August 1 this year and remains on USA Cycling's Pro Road Tour schedule on those dates. In early March, the dates of the Tour of Utah on the UCI calendar were reduced to just three days, from July 30 to August 1, leading to massive uncertainties about the format.

“Due to the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and the Tour of Utah Ultimate Challenge are postponed in 2021. We continue to plan for resuming these events in 2022,” Steve Miller, chair, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, told Cyclingnews.

US-based teams like Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling, Hagens Berman Axeon and Rally Cycling have always spotlighted the Tour of Utah on their competition schedules, as it is a way to match up again select WorldTour teams. In 2019, the last year the Utah race was contested, Hagens Berman Axeon saw rider João Almeida, now with Deceuninck-QuickStep, finish fourth on GC and win the best young rider title.

“The Tour of Utah has always been a highlight on our calendar and a great proving ground for our riders. We’re saddened to hear it has been canceled this year, but can’t wait to get back to the great state of Utah in 2022,” said Axel Merckx, manager of Hagens Berman Axeon.

The sentiment was echoed by management of the Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling team, which had success in 2019 with James Piccoli, now riding for Israel Start-Up Nation, who was second in the overall GC, had a stage win and was named most aggressive rider on the final day in Park City.

"The news that the Tour of Utah is cancelled for 2021 is another big blow for all the North American teams, riders, and the whole cycling community," said Paul Abrahams, general manager of Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling. 

"The Tour of Utah has been such a fantastic showcase for our program and allowed the top riders to compete against the worlds best. History has shown that US events of this caliber do not return after a hiatus. The Miller family has been such an incredible champion of cycling over the last decade, I hope they can find a way to bring back 'America’s Toughest Stage Race'."

The Tour of Utah was selected as a UCI ProSeries event in 2020, having been a 2.HC stage race for six years prior, but was part of the tidal wave of cancellations in the US last year. Promoted as “America’s Toughest Stage Race” with its annual course challenges in the Wasatch Mountain range using numerous ski resorts for start and finish venues, the 2020 Tour was on the cusp of announcing a prestigious field of 16 teams last March when the COVID-19 coronavirus shut down much of competitive racing for the summer around the world.

Then in October, the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, the title sponsor for the Tour of Utah since 2008, announced it was selling the majority of its sports properties, namely the majority interest in the Utah Jazz, an NBA franchise which the Miller family had owned for 35 years. Other assets were part of the sale, official in January 2021, to the Smith Entertainment Group – Vivint Smart Home Arena, NBA G League affiliate, management of the triple-A baseball team – but the cycling race was not part of this transaction.

Before the pandemic, the Tour of California created a gaping hole in the US calendar when organisers announced it would go on what looks increasingly to be a permanent 'hiatus'. The race was also owned by a company that relies upon ticket sales for its business model - the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) - and all entertainment companies have taken huge hits during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The Tour of California was the only WorldTour stage race on the continent, while the Tour of Utah was part of USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour and was the only UCI 2.Pro race on the US calendar. This leaves the Maryland Cycling Classic p/b UnitedHealthcare, on September 5, as the only ProSeries race, a 1.Pro event, and the GP Montréal and Québec WorldTour races in North America.

The UCI recently confirmed new dates for the Joe Martin Stage Race from August 26-29 but have not yet updated the dates for Tour of the Gila, which is looking to move from late April to September 29-October 3.