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Tour of Alberta to debut in 2013 – Major professional cycling race is headed to Alberta
As the popularity of professional cycling in Canada hits new highs thanks to the performance of racer Ryder Hesjedal, a new multi-day pro stage race is heading to Alberta.
Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal competes in the 6,4 km individual time-trial and prologue of the 2012 Tour de France cycling race running around Liege.
North America has a new UCI-ranked stage race for 2013 with the debut of Canada’s Tour of Alberta, slated for September 3-8. The UCI 2.1-ranked, six-day event’s position on the calendar will provide an ideal bridge between the UCI 2.HC-rated USA Pro Challenge, taking place August 19-25 in Colorado, and the two Canadian WorldTour races, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal scheduled for September 13th and September 15th respectively.
Alex Stieda is working to bring stage racing into Alberta
According to the Province, retired Canadian cycling star Alex Stieda is working with an Edmonton group to bring the stage race to fruition and the event has a funding commitment of approximately $2 million from the Alberta government.
According to a report on VeloNews.com, the Tour of Alberta could be put in place as early as next year, and include multiple stages through Edmonton, the Alberta Rockies, and into Calgary. The race would be ranked just below the Tour of California on the UCI calendar, meaning it could attract some of the top teams in the world — potentially even Hesjedal himself.
Bridges gap between USA Pro Challenge and Canadian WorldTour races
With its UCI 2.1 ranking, the Tour of Alberta will be the highest rated stage race in Canada for next season. The country’s other UCI multi-day event is the 2.2-rated Tour de Beauce, scheduled for June 11-16 next year.
Officials haven’t confirmed the race because details are said to be under negotiation, but if the VeloNews report is true, the Tour of Alberta would be the biggest event on the racing scene in Canada — bigger even than the two UCI events in Quebec and second only to the Tour of California in North America.
VeloNews reported that former Canadian pro Alex Stieda, the first Canadian to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, is said to be pushing the initiative in Canada.
Alberta cyclists are happy to hear the good news
Cycling Canada spokesperson Guy Napert-Frenette confirmed that an Edmonton-based group is working on bringing a high-profile stage race to Alberta, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
“We’ve been working with the organizing committee who are in the process of acquiring licenses and going through the paperwork and that kind of thing,” Napert-Frenette said. “Until the license is granted, there won’t be any details about when it may happen, or the stages or that kind of thing.”
Napert-Frenette said that if the race can be staged; it will be a boon for the sport in Canada. “It’s a great tourism sport, that’s for sure. These big races attract a lot of international media,” he said. “The economic impact of race like that can be significant… And there are some beautiful roads in Alberta.”
Ryder Hesjedal in leader’s pink jersey at the 2012 Giro d’ Italia
Brad Ferguson, Managing Director of the Rural Alberta Development Fund also confirmed an Alberta group has made “significant progress” towards having a major stage race approved in Alberta. He said the Rural Alberta Development Fund has “conditionally approved a significant amount of money for such an event,” but could offer no details until the event is confirmed.
“The organizing committee has moved this along significantly,” he said. “The event is going to be spectacular. It will bring together rural towns and cities all over the province.”
It’s been confirmed: Tour of Alberta 2013 reality
Former Canadian pro, Alex Stieda, confirmed on Monday that the Tour of Alberta will take place next September, according to The Province. He’s one of the six members of the board of directors for the Tour of Alberta, a UCI 2.1 stage race that will run from Sept. 3 to Sept. 8, 2013. In addition, the provincial government has agreed to put forward $2 million to fund a portion of the event.
“Absolutely, yes it is,” Stieda told The Province. “We have enough money now for the UCI to approve the event. Everything the UCI is telling us now is all good, all positive.”
According the Stieda, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has agreed to sanction the event at a 2.1 level, making it the highest ranked road cycling stage race in Canada. The race is expected to start in Edmonton and end six days later in Calgary, passing through mountain towns Banff and Jasper along the way.
There are a number of UCI-sanctioned road events in Canada including the two WorldTour events Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Montreal, Tour de Beauce, Grand Prix de Gatineau and Chrono Gatineau.
Riders who take part in both the USA Pro Challenge and the Canadian WorldTour races, such as the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, will have the six-day Tour of Alberta to fill the gap next year between the events.
Here are some of Alex thoughts on the race.
On the Tour’s route
The plan is to have a prologue in Edmonton. Then there’d be four stages in rural Alberta, but still close to Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer so that people can drive from those major centres to see the races. The final day would be a circuit finish in Calgary.
On bringing cycling to Alberta
The idea is to bring the race to the people. We want to educate the public here in Alberta about bike racing. There aren’t a ton of people who are hardcore cycling fans. We need to help them understand the strategies in a bike race. There’s an initiative planned with the Grade 6 curriculum that will speak to different parts of cycling, including science, geography and nutrition. There will be a festival component that will create awareness about the race and also community pride, especially in the towns outside of Calgary and Edmonton.
Alex Stieda with peter Hapleston from Edmonton
On the race’s importance to the province
With a stage race, we will be able to show off the beauty of Alberta. And, we’ll be able to show the hospitality of Albertans, which is key. I’ve been here 16 years and it’s a great place to live. It’s very underrated. We have a lot to show here and a lot to be proud of.
On public participation
We’d love to be able to have amateurs ride the route on the same day as the pros like in the Tour Down Under and Tour of Utah. People ride the race course, and then watch the race go by a few hours later. It may not happen in the first year, but it can be done.
You can read full PEZ Cycling News interview with Alex here.
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