Tour of the US? (Part 1)

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Friday, February 10, 2006
By Michael


By Michael Franken

Call me a dreamer, but there has to be a way to generate enough interest to create a Tour of the US. We have many multi-day stage races across the United States, could it ever be possible to combine those tours?

Case in point, look at the following stage races:

Tour of California - 8 stages
Tour de Georgia - 6 stages
Tour de Toona - 7 stages

Just with the three tours alone, there would be enough stages to classify as a "Grand Tour". If there was a way to move these three races closer together datewise, add transitions by plane, and maybe condense the sponsors, it may be plausible for a Tour of the US to take place. However, in my mind, it would not count as a grand tour. Three states would benefit from this race, and the rest of us would be left to travel.

Although it may be possible for a Tour of the US to eventually happen, we are faced with some problems that France, Italy, and Spain do not have to contend with.

Issue 1: Geography
The United States is a large country, to spread 2300 miles or so of cycling would hardly be coast to coast. Likewise, a route that would benefit climbers and sprinters would be hard to create. The Rockies would offer the most climbing, but would limit the race to the west coast. Likewise, deserts would probably have to be avoided (although it would make for some intense cycling).

Issue 2: Timing
A Tour of the US would have to find a twenty-three day period between the other grand tours and smaller tour races in Europe. May would be out (for the Giro), July would be out (for the TdF), and most of September would be out (for the Vuelta). There would be no way to place the Tour of the US in August, as cyclists would need some time to refresh after the TdF. Having a Tour of the US in March and/or April would not be possible, as that is when the spring classics take place. It may be possible to have a tour in October, but again, not much time would be given after the Vuelta to offer cyclists a break.

Timing can also be viewed in another way. The other grand tours have been around for quite a long time, bringing in a new grand tour in its infancy stage may not generate enough appeal for European teams to make the trip over for.

Issue 3: Sponsorship
There have been numerous sponsors of large stage races in the United States. However, these sponsors stuck around for a while, sponsorship was lost a few years later, and then the race was lost. The Tour de Trump is a perfect example, once sponsorship was lost, Dupont stepped in and kept the race here for a few more years, once sponsorship was lost from them, the race inevitably folded. The same goes for the HP Women's Challenge.

Issue 4: Security
To provide excellent security for the races, state police departments from numerous states would need to work together to provide flawless transitions from state to state. Grand tours in other countries just get the national police to provide escorts throughout the race.

There are many other issues I will discuss in Part 2, but as for right now, I will leave it at this. Just imagine, the final stage of the Tour of the US, cyclists heading down Broadway towards the finish line in the middle of Times Square. A sprint finish at one of the most famous places in the world.

Expect Part 2 this weekend, and as usual, please contact me at SusquCyclist@gmail.com with any questions or comments, or simply comment here. And to cyclists in the northeast, break out the rollers this weekend, sounds like we're in for some snow.


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Comments:
Fantastic post, Michael!

Sponsorship's a huge deal. The Tour de Toona website has some good numbers on cycling demographics, but the perception seems to be that few people in the USA watch competetive cycling events. OLN stepped out on a limb last year broke ratings records for their network with 1.6 million viewers watching the TdF, so I don't really understand the lack of televised coverage for major US stage races.
 
I like the fact that these are spread out one week races.

It would be better to have a series of events happening throughout the year than to condense them down to one 3 week race.

Instead of combining the three it would be better to have more one week stage races in various parts of the country. It would strengthen the domestic cycling scene plus Euro squads can send some riders to come over at different times of the year.

More and up close exposure than having to rely on one gargantuan event.
 
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