October 6/06 9:01 am - USA Cycling Announces Pro Tour for 2007 (with Editorial Comment)
Posted by Editor on 10/6/06
USA Cycling Announces Pro Tour for 2007
Editor's Note: This initiative by USA Cycling came about because the organization has started to realize that it can no longer depend solely upon ProTour European-based riders for starting spots at world championships and Olympics - Armstrong has retired, and so will other top riders over the next few years.
I have had numerous conversations with individuals at USA Cycling who admitted that the NRC Series was not filling in the gap - for a variety of reasons, certain organizers would not take out UCI sanctions (date scheduling, sanction fees, regulations, etc.). So, USA Cycling decided to create a premier series.
For Canada, this series will also be vital to obtaining Worlds and Olympic spots under the Continental Tour system, as it exists. Currently, South American nations are scooping all the available spots because they have filled the calendar with UCI events. These events are extremely expensive for North American teams to attend (ask Symmetrics!) and, while providing UCI points, offer little benefit to the sponsors of the teams.
This USA Cycling series will help redress the balance between North and South America. We hope that the CCA will contribute to the program by encouraging similar races in Canada (and Le Tour Montreal - Boston is a strong start).
USA Cycling announces the creation of the USA Cycling Professional Tour, to recognize the top international-caliber foreign and domestic UCI professional teams and riders over the course of the racing season in the United States.
Beginning in 2007, all elite men's events on the UCI calendar in the U.S., plus three USA Cycling professional national championships, will be a part of the USA Cycling Professional Tour. The goal of the USA Cycling Professional Tour is to acknowledge international competition in the U.S. and to spotlight events that have made the commitment to host world-class UCI-sanctioned races that feature UCI-registered professional teams and athletes.
As the number of international UCI calendared events and professional teams continues to increase domestically, the opportunity to implement a season-long series of internationally-sanctioned events became apparent, resulting in the USA Cycling Professional Tour. In 2007, the USA Cycling Professional Tour will include 15 races in 11 states with 40 days of racing.
At season's end, the USA Cycling Professional Tour will crown an overall champion based on an overall points system to declare the top international-level rider on U.S. soil.
"We're thrilled that with the growth of world-class cycling in the United States, we're now able to recognize a season-long calendar of major international events," commented Steve Johnson, chief executive officer of USA Cycling. "We often hear about how Europe is considered the pinnacle of professional bike racing, but the creation of this calendar signifies a major step forward in the evolution of our sport at the highest level within our own borders."
The 2007 USA Cycling Professional Tour welcomes three brand new events, six UCI-sanctioned incumbents, three first-time UCI-sanctioned races and three USA Cycling professional national championship events that offer UCI points.
The 2007 USA Cycling Professional Tour kicks off in February with the second-annual AMGEN Tour of California. The inaugural U.S. Cycling Open in Richmond, Va. and the Tour de Georgia will follow in April. The traditional early-June series of races in and around Philadelphia is next on the calendar with the Commerce Bank Lancaster Classic in Lancaster, Pa., the Commerce Bank Reading Classic in Reading, Pa. and the Commerce Bank International Championship in Philadelphia. The new Austin Men's International in Texas continues a busy June that concludes with the Saturn Rochester Twilight Criterium in Rochester, N.Y. The lone August event will be the USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships in Downers Grove, Ill. before a full September features the USA Cycling Professional Time Trial and Road Race Championships in Greenville, S.C., the Univest Grand Prix in Souderton, Pa. and the inaugural Tour of Missouri before the 2007 USA Cycling Professional Tour concludes with the Tour of Leelanau in Traverse City, Mich. The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah will also be featured on the calendar, however a date has not yet been confirmed.
In the past, many of the events on the USA Cycling Professional Tour have been a part of the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC), however with growing demand for inclusion on the NRC and the continued increase in the number of internationally-sanctioned events in the U.S., two calendars with two distinct purposes are now a viable reality.
The USA Cycling Professional Tour will focus solely on domestic men's professional racing and will guarantee competition against a field of international talent as a minimum of five foreign teams per race must be invited as a requirement of UCI sanctioning.
The separation of UCI-sanctioned events and the National Racing Calendar is a change welcomed by pro team managers, race promoters and athletes alike.
"The new model created by USA Cycling simplifies racing in America and creates a nice synergy between the two calendars," explained TIAA-CREF Professional Cycling Team manager Jonathan Vaughters. "The USA Cycling Professional Tour creates a simple way to determine the best rider that competes in the United States while the retention of the NRC allows for a team manager like myself to identify up and coming talent."
Medalist Sports' Chris Aronhalt, commented on the change from a promoter's perspective.
"On behalf of the AMGEN Tour of California, the Tour de Georgia and the USA Cycling Professional Championships, it's an honor to be included on this calendar," said Aronhalt. "This new series illustrates the strength and potential the sport of cycling has in the U.S. It also provides valuable recognition to bring back to sponsors knowing that they're supporting the best of the best. The level of competition amongst events will also stimulate other races on the National Racing Calendar to raise their game. The fact that we now have a dedicated calendar of upper echelon cycling races in America shows the growth the sport has experienced in the U.S."
"The USA Cycling Professional Tour provides a tremendous opportunity to recognize the best professional riders in the United States and to continue the development of our sport domestically," explained Johnson. "To ensure the depth of talent here in the United States continues to grow, our riders need to compete against world-class competitors from around the globe. Continued emphasis on top-level international competition on U.S. soil through the development of the USA Cycling Professional Tour will help to make this a reality."
With the new USA Cycling Professional Tour catering to UCI-sanctioned professional teams, the National Racing Calendar will remain as the barometer that measures the top domestic-based teams and riders throughout the course of the season. The National Racing Calendar will remain open to both professional and club-level teams to feature a "Pro-Am" atmosphere in which the top U.S. professionals and amateurs will compete for overall titles in four categories - men's individual, men's team, women's individual and women's team.
2007 USA Cycling Professional Tour
Feb. 18-25: AMGEN Tour of California - California
Apr. 14: U.S. Cycling Open - Richmond, Va.
Apr. 16-22: Tour de Georgia - Georgia
June 3: Commerce Bank Lancaster Classic - Lancaster, Pa.
June 7: Commerce Bank Reading Classic - Reading, Pa.
June 10: Commerce Bank International Championship - Philadelphia, Pa.
June 17: Austin Men's Invitational - Austin, Texas
June 23: Saturn Rochester Twilight Criterium - Rochester, N.Y.
*Aug. 12-19: Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah - Utah
Aug. 19: USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships - Downer's Grove, Ill.
Sept. 1: The Cliffs USA Cycling Professional Time Trial Championships - Greenville, S.C.
Sept. 3: The Cliffs USA Cycling Professional Road Championships - Greenville, S.C.
Sept. 8: Univest Grand Prix - Souderton, Pa.
Sept. 11-16: Tour of Missouri - Missouri
Sept. 15: Tour de Leelanau - Traverse, City, Mich.
*The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is currently scheduled for Aug. 12-19 on the UCI Calendar, however efforts are being made to change the date to avoid conflict with Le Tour Montreal-Boston scheduled for August 5-12 and the USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships August 19.