Sad news from Georgia this morning. Citing tough economic conditions and a need to plan for the future, organizers of the 2009 Tour de Georgia bicycle race say they'll cancel the race in 2009 but return in 2010.
In an announcement posted on the Tour de Georgia website, race chairman Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle says:
“We have … decided to skip one year so that the Tour de Georgia can once and for all be ahead of the game in the planning process. This is a decision I feel is wise and one that will strengthen the Tour de Georgia for years to come.”
Board member Phil Jacobs told the Savannah Morning News, “The rise in the cost of gas and the current “tough” economic picture hurt us.”
Meanwhile, a “Lance Armstrong bump” from his possible participation in the race vanished when he announced he would be competing in the European spring classics that are scheduled at about the same time as the Tour de Georgia's slot.
Board member Tom Saddlemire explained:
“We have decided to use 2009 as a time to plan ahead and properly position the Tour de Georgia to make the best use of the new partnerships we forged during the 2008 Tour de Georgia Presented by AT&T, such as our relationships with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Road Atlanta.
“The planning process for the Tour de Georgia requires a tremendous amount of time and effort and we wanted to give all of our partners enough time to plan and allocate their resources to take full advantage of the event. Therefore, we will skip 2009 and the Board will petition USAC and the UCI for the Tour de Georgia's return to the world calendar in 2010.”
Launched in 2003, the stage race across Georgia became a major focus of US cycling fans and professional cyclists. Its 2.HC classification by the UCI helped make it an important race on the international stage, drawing many teams that also compete in Europe.
It also has its own epic climb — Brasstown Bald.
Despite its popularity, the race had to scramble to find major sponsors. It went ran without a title sponsor in 2007, and AT&T came on board early in 2008.
The Tour de Georgia had to seek a state bail-outs in 2007 and 2008 to meet its costs. It received $400,000 from the state Department of Economic Development both years.
Although that may have raised controversy among state taxpayers, the Tour accomplished what it initially set out to do — bring tourist dollars into the state.
The 2008 Tour de Georgia that rolled out from Tybee Island on April 21 and finished in Atlanta on April 27 added more than $38 million in tourist dollars to the state's economy, according to a state study. That was a 40% increase over the previous year.
Spectatorship was down in 2008 by 20% in 2008, however, as an estimated 400,000 people watched the peloton from the roadside.
California and Missouri
The race in 2008 also raised $500,000 in support of cancer research through the Aflac Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare and the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
When 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong announced he was coming out of retirement in September, one of the races he said that he'd like to bike was the Tour de Georgia.
Lately, however, Armstrong said he was heading to Europe to race in the spring classics. That meant the Tour de Georgia wouldn't be on his schedule.
The Texan won the Tour de Georgia in 2004. The following year, he announced his retirement at a press conference right before the start of the Georgia bicycle race.
The winners of past Tours de Georgia were: 2003 – Chris Horner; 2004 - Lance Armstrong; 2005 – Tom Danielson; 2006 – Floyd Landis; 2007 – Janez Brajkovic; and 2008 – Kanstantin Siutsou.
CyclingNews says a benefactor might be the Tour of the Battenkill, a Classics-style race in Cambridge, New York. It has been given permission to apply for a spot on the UCI calendar on April 18-19, 2009.