USA Pro Cycling Challenge aspires to UCI 2.HC upgrade

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Chairman Shawn Hunter is aspiring to upgrade his inaugural UCI-sanctioned 2.1 event to a 2.HC status and confirmed that the event secured financial backing for 2012. UCI President Pat McQuaid stated the decision to upgrade will depend on the degree of improvements made following the post-event report. In addition, the decision is contingent upon the depth of UCI events on the US calendar.

Hunter responded to questions regarding next year's secured financial backing for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge by stating, "Absolutely, we have committed funding. We have two very committed and passionate owners and the reward for me this week was to see the smile on their faces and each and every day at the finish of the races, to see the crowds and the enthusiasm."

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge might have started out with a couple of name changes and some branding issues, however upon the penultimate stage five finish in Breckenridge, it was clear that the seven-day event was a success in its first year. It would be no surprise if the race took one step forward and the UCI granted it the 2.HC status that it is seeking.

"We are working on that [UCI 2.HC status] with both Medalist Sports and Pat McQuaid," Hunter said. "I think it is logical step and I think we will look back and say this was a good year, we will get better in 2012. For America, we have two and three pretty great events. I think it is a credit to what is happening in US cycling. This race is definitely back and it's definitely going to be here for the long term."

McQuaid is scheduled to meet with the UCI Road Commission next week where he expects to discuss the possible upgrade. He warned, however, that the decision to upgrade is not solely based on the success of an event, its organization, the attendance of world-class riders, a scenic parcours, or its record crowds. The decision will also be based on the number of events on the nation's calendar.

This year there was one 2.HC event at the Amgen Tour of California and five others that included 2.1 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, 2.1 Tour of Utah, 2.2 Tour of Elk Grove, 1.HC TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championships and the 1.1 Univest Grand Prix. There are also two WorldTour events and the 2.2 Tour de Beauce in Canada.

"Any decision that is taken is taken also in view of the total number of races that there are in the United States," McQuaid said. "There is no point in having three, four or five .HC races and then nothing in the steps below. So it is taken in relation to the total number of events in the US as well. From the UCI point of view, it is an important race because our strategy is to globalize the sport and this fits in very well with that strategy. We hope that this race continues to grow and that we can continue to see good quality riders and good quality racing taking place here."

McQuaid will depart the event prior to the start of stage six finale from Golden to Denver. He will leave Hunter, along with Medalist Sports, with a report that will include a list of improvements that he will expect to be made before the coming year.

"You can always improve, even the Tour de France can improve, you can always learn from your existing events," McQuaid said. "The race can improve by looking at the great events like the Tour de France, how they are organized and operated. It doesn't mean the race has to be like the Tour de France, each event has its own characteristics and character.

"I have heard that the television coverage could improve a bit," he said. "Other than that, the crowds were massive and it surprised me in the last couple of kilometres in Aspen, Steamboat and Breckenridge. A lot of work has gone into the background of this race and in the promotion of it. We will be working with Shawn Hunter and his team, Medalist Sports, and USA Cycling to find ways to improve it."

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