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BOULDER, Colo. (VN) – The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will return with an upgrade in 2012 after the UCI last week awarded the event 2.HC status. The second-year Colorado race will upgrade to the highest registration level short of the World Tour and will run August 20-26.
“This is an exciting day for our race,” said CEO and co-chairman Shawn Hunter. “We are grateful for the UCI’s support as well as their confidence in our long-term potential in the world of professional cycling.”
Hunter told VeloNews after the race’s final stage in August that the 2.HC upgrade was his first focus. Hunter hosted UCI president Pat McQuaid for the entire week of the inaugural race, save the final day in Denver. McQuaid said at the time that the race was important to the UCI’s mission of globalization and that he had met with race organizers to discuss the event’s future.
“From the UCI perspective, it’s an important race,” said McQuaid. “You have no (Greg) LeMond, no Lance Armstrong, and yet you have bigger crowds than any race in the U.S.”
McQuaid said at a press conference following stage 6 in Breckenridge that an upgrade for the event was possible, as well as an expansion of “a day or two.” While the expansion is off the table for the event’s second edition, the UCI road commission approved the upgrade last week during meetings at the world championships in Copenhagen. McQuaid said in Breckenridge that any decision to assign second-tier status to the race would be made within the context of the entire U.S. international calendar.
“Any decision that is taken is taken also in view of the total number of races that there are in the United States,” he said. “There is no point in having three, four or five .HC races and then nothing in the steps below. So it is taken in relation to the total number of events in the U.S. as well.”
In 2011, the U.S. played host to six UCI races, led by the 2.HC Amgen Tour of California. Also on the calendar were the 2.1-rated USA Pro Cycling Challenge and Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the 2.2-rated Tour of Elk Grove, 1.HC TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship and 1.1 Univest Grand Prix.
The upgrade will produce little effective change for the race, outside of offering additional points in the UCI America Tour, the continental series spanning the western hemisphere. The team invitation thresholds for America Tour races do not change: ProTeams may constitute a maximum of 50 percent of the field, with Pro Continental, Continental and national teams filling out the rest of the roster. Organizers should still face the requirement that the top three teams in the America Tour rankings be invited to the race.
The 2.HC status is an important step toward the World Tour, a move Hunter told VeloNews his team is considering pursuing, but would not take lightly. Continental teams like Bissell and Jelly Belly-Kenda are excluded from the top-tier races, which are required to invite all 18 ProTeams.
“You lose the opportunity to showcase the future of the sport in our country,” he said. “We were 2.1 this year and we had the Tour de France podium at our race.”
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UCI 2.HC) will take place August 20-26, 2012.