I completely missed this on VeloNews and CyclingNews.com this past Friday, just stumbling across this article on the BBC this morning.
The Tour of Georgia, one of American’s cycling’s most prestigious events, has been cancelled for next season.
Created in 2003, the Tour has failed to secure regular sponsors since Lance Armstrong’s retirement in 2005.
The Texan, who announced his return to professional cycling in September, did not include Georgia in his 2009 plans.
“I’m disappointed that the 2009 Tour has been cancelled, but very pleased that it will return in 2010,” said USA Cycling boss Steve Johnson.
In a statement, organisers said: “The planning process for the Tour of Georgia requires a tremendous amount of time and effort.
“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.”
Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong took the Georgia title in 2004.
Every, I’ve wanted to make the trip back east to go see the race, especially since in most years, there has been at least one stage finish in my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee … looks like I’ll have to wait until 2010.
I’m sure that economic hard times and the current recession are contributing factors as well, but it really sucks that the American corporate sponsorship community (at least for a sport like cycling) focusses so much on one rider that his retirement has a ripple effect throughout the the entire sport.
And even his comeback isn’t enough to generate big monetary excitement.
Or, it could be all the doping issues … regardless, the loss of another large American race does not bode well …
The Tour de Georgia will not be held next year, but the race’s backers say it will be back in 2010.
The race’s board of directors announced Friday that they will use 2009 to “plan ahead and properly position” the race for 2010.
“We believe that this unique and exciting event will endure,” said Tom Saddlemire, a member of the board and recently retired CFO of GE Energy.
The race backers said that by many measures the event has been wildly successful.
“Over the course of six years, the Tour de Georgia has attracted 3.2 million spectators, many of whom traveled to Georgia from out of state, and generated a direct economic impact totaling over $186 million,” said Craig Lesser, former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “The 2008 Tour de Georgia, our most successful Tour yet, yielded over $38.6 million in direct economic impact for the state. We have come a long way since 2003.”
The 2008 event also raised nearly $3.2 million in operating expenses and commitments for more than $500,000 in support of cancer research through the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare and the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
Despite the fund raising and competitive successes, the race has often struggled to find title sponsors, signing its “Presenting Sponsor,” AT&T, in January last year.