Tour of the Battenkill pro race to be replaced by new Gran Fondo
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Friday, January 11, 2013

Tour of the Battenkill pro race to be replaced by new Gran Fondo

by Shane Stokes at 9:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
‘No solid plans’ to run professional event in the future

Tour of the BattenkillFollowing on from a decision in late November not to apply for UCI status for his race in 2013, the organiser of the Tour of the Battenkill has now abandoned plans to run a pro event this season and beyond.

Dieter Drake has confirmed to VeloNation that the long running pro event will be replaced by a Gran Fondo this year, with the fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal understood to be a factor in the decision.

In November Drake said that things were tough for American races. “The situation right now is impossible. I have had sponsors tell me flat out that we are not going to do any sponsorship in cycling, at least for the foreseeable future. Continental teams in the US have had similar discussions with their own sponsors too; its very hard.”

He said that he used his own personal finances to ensure the race had UCI ranking in 2012 but wasn’t prepared to do so again.

Drake expressed frustration with the UCI then, saying that he considered the governing body has been inconsistent in its message in the wake of USADA’s reasoned decision and was ‘stumbling along.’ He also said that the UCI needed to acknowledge its own past errors, rather than blaming others.

While he said then that the Tour of the Battenkill would continue on the NRC calendar, he has changed that decision and will go in a different direction entirely.

“We needed to make room for the Gran Fondo event which is in pretty high demand,” he told VeloNation today. “There are also fewer and fewer good reasons to be involved in professional cycling these days so it had to go, unfortunately. Many of our sponsors are much more interested interest in Gran Fondo style events and we hope to expand on this format going forward while keeping the traditional age group and category races that are very popular as well.”

Drake states that those age group and category races will continue on the Saturday and Sunday of the event, April 13th and 14th, while the new Gran Fondo will take place on the latter day. It is open to the general public and is limited to 1,000 entrants.

He said that the Gran Fondo will follow the same 65 mile/105 kilometre course as the Tour of the Battenkill pro race previously did. “Riders will compete on various timed segments of the course which includes ten dirt road sections and challenging climbs.” Competitors in various age group categories will be given prizes at the end of the event.

In 2012 the Tour of the Battenkill featured almost 3000 amateur riders. It will continue to be part of the ten-event Stan’s Notubes Great American Series in 2013.

While today’s news will be greeted by those interested in riding the Gran Fondo, and ties in with a growth in that area of the sport, it is a blow for the US professional racing calendar. Drake is pessimistic about the chance of a return in the future.

“There are no solid plans to bring a sanctioned professional race back, no,” he told VeloNation, “though we welcome anyone to the event as always.

“Professional bike races like this one are a real challenge. It’s out of the way a remote by design – you can’t host a classic-style road race just anywhere, especially near a major metropolitan area where you might get more attention from sponsors.”

He accepts that the pro race was a hit with the teams which took part, but felt that wasn’t reflected financially. “Battenkill is enormously popular among the teams and riders and we had great support there, but in the end there isn’t enough of an acknowledgement by those folks of the value we brought to the table,” he stated.

“Because we are competing for the same sponsors in many cases, we had hoped to partner with them to make it work, but that never happened this year for whatever reason. I don’t fault those people at all, but it is what it is and we need to move on.”

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