Tour of California
- Breaking News: This was announced yesterday at the World Championships:
Coming in 2006: Tour of California
By Jason Sumner
Special to VeloNews
This report filed March 26, 2005
Normally if a group of event organizers announced a multi-day bike
race that was slated to commence in less than year, but had no title
sponsor, a route or even exact dates, you'd chalk it up as the
standard baseless hyperbole that has so often characterized proposed
cycling events in the U.S.
But when AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke backed up the announcement
of what will be the inaugural Tour of California with the boldest of
statements, you have to believe this event is actually going to get
off the ground as planned come February 2006.
"The decision we had to make at AEG, and with our other partners,
was: Are we prepared to go this alone if we don't sell any
sponsorship? Are we willing to finance this thing completely for five
years, which would be about a $35 million commitment?" Leiweke said
during a news conference held at the ritzy Stadium Club, which
overlooks the soccer field at the Home Depot Center in Carson,
California. "The answer is yes. If we have to spend $35 million to
build the race we will."
But no matter who ends up footing the bill, this eight-day,
UCI-sanctioned men's road stage race is primed to be the biggest
event that's descended on U.S. cycling in years.
"We are looking at the great cycling events around the world and
aspiring to become one of those great events," continued Leiweke. "We
are looking at the Tour de France as our model, and looking at the
Tour de France as what we want to be one day when we grow up.
"It took us a while to get here because this is not an inexpensive
endeavor. But our company has committed the funding to give this race
the right chance. It's not going to be a one- or two-year and out
deal. This is a long-term commitment. We are making a commitment to
this sport and a long-term commitment to the Tour of California. We
know success won't come right away. We know it's going to take some
time to reach the level that we want to accomplish."
Leiweke and AEG certainly appear to have the right people behind
them. Speakers at the Friday afternoon press conference included UCI
president Hein Verbruggen, USA Cycling CEO Gerard Bisceglia and
California Secretary of Education Richard Riordan.
Riordan, a cyclist himself, called the race an opportunity to show
the world that California "is the greatest place in the world. The
Tour of California will show people that California is not just a
place, it's a way of life."
Verbruggen was equally effusive, gushing that "if ever there was a
situation where all the necessary components were in place for a
great race, it is here."
As for the nuts and bolts of the race, managing director Robert
Colarossi said that final decisions on dates and the race route would
come "sometime this summer." But assuming a mid-February start, the
event would fit nicely into the existing early-season slate, allowing
ProTour teams to go from Australia's Tour Down Under to the Tour de
Langkawi in Malaysia, and then fly across the Pacific for the race in
California, before returning to Europe for the start of the main
"AEG and our partners are all dedicated to making this one of the two
or three best cycling events in all of the world," said Leiweke. "The
best athletes will come here. We will have the most prize money in
the history of cycling in the U.S. We are going to do this the right
way. We are going to take our time and build something great. And
strive to be a great event like the Tour de France."
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