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A new Canadian UCI stage race, the Tour of Alberta, is in development, with a proposed debut in August or September 2013, several sources have confirmed with VeloNews.com.
The weeklong stage race, based in the western Canadian province of Alberta, is petitioning for a UCI 2.1 designation, and hopes to fall on the calendar after the late-August USA Pro Cycling Challenge and before Canada’s two one-day WorldTour events, the Grand Prix Cyclistes Québec and Montréal, currently held on the second weekend of September.
The six-day Tour of Alberta would likely start in Edmonton, potentially traversing a hilly route through the Canadian Rockies, visiting several national parks, including Banff and Jasper, and end in Calgary, sources have told VeloNews.com.
Canada currently has one international stage race, the UCI 2.2. Tour de Beauce. The Tour of Alberta is aiming for UCI 2.1 status, which would make it the highest-profile race in the country, meaning a maximum of 50 percent of the team allowed to race can be UCI ProTeams.
By comparison, the Amgen Tour of California and USA Pro Cycling Challenge are both rated 2.HC, the highest designation for non-WorldTour stage races, which allows up to 70 percent of UCI ProTeams.
Examples of UCI 2.1 stage races include the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Australia’s Herald Sun Tour and Spain’s Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.
Former pro Alex Stieda, who in 1986 became the first North American to ever wear the maillot jaune at the Tour de France, is spearheading the event, which is operating on a grant from the Rural Alberta Development Fund (RADF).
Stieda confirmed that he has been working on getting a major race in Alberta, his adopted province, for over a decade. “I can’t say much yet, but I can say that we are working with the UCI on a six-day stage race that could include [ProTeams],” Steida told VeloNews.com.
Tour of Alberta organizers are now seeking corporate sponsorship dollars to match RADF funding, sources told VeloNews.com
American race organizer Medalist Sports, which manages the Amgen Tour of California, Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge, is rumored to be the event management company for the Canadian event. When reached for comment, Medalist Sports managing partner Jim Birrell did not confirm nor deny Medalist’s involvement.
“That’s a good question,” Birrell said when asked if there might be a new Canadian UCI stage race in 2013. “That is interesting. I certainly hope so, but I cannot confirm nor deny whether a six- or seven-day stage race is happening in Canada next year. But that would certainly be a great addition for the North American race calendar.”
UCI officials also could not, or would not, confirm knowledge of the Tour of Alberta. The international cycling federation’s spokesperson, Enrico Carpani, said he didn’t know anything about the race, adding, “That doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but if it is happening for next year, I am surprised that I wouldn’t know about it.”
A call put into the Canadian federation, Cycling Canada Cyclisme, was not immediately returned.
Starting with the Tour of Utah in mid-August through the one-day races in Québec, the Tour of Alberta would provide the sport’s top cyclists with a solid block of UCI racing in North America — a viable alternative for those not racing the Vuelta a España, doubling as preparation for the late-September world road championships.
No information was immediately available as to whether or not a coinciding women’s stage race would be part of the event.
Traditionally the UCI has announced race calendar changes for the following season during the world road championships in late September. This year’s UCI Congress will be held in Maastricht, Netherlands, on September 21.
Canada does not have a UCI ProTeam. Its highest-ranked squad is the Pro Continental SpiderTech-C10 squad, managed by former Canadian pro Steve Bauer.
In May, Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal delivered Canada its biggest international race result with an overall win at the Giro d’Italia, the nation’s first grand tour victory.
On August 25, 2012, the inaugural RBC GranFondo Banff is set to be held; it is the only GranFondo in North America that is fully contained within the boundaries of a national park — potentially opening the door for a Tour of Alberta to pass through Banff in 2013.