Elk Grove mayor: Why must we move our bike race?
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Officials with USA Cycling, the national governing body for sports cycling, said Monday they are disappointed with Elk Grove Village's decision to discontinue the Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove because of a scheduling conflict with another top-tier race.
"It's always disappointing when we lose a top event," said Micah Rice, USA Cycling vice president of national events. "We still say that these two races can live together on these same dates."
Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson announced Sunday the village is canceling the three-day cycling event because of a Tour of Utah scheduling change sanctioned by USA Cycling and International Cycling Union (Union Cycliste Internationale), the global governing body for competitive cycling. The change, Johnson said, would prevent top-tier racing teams and riders from competing in the Tour of Elk Grove.
Rice said USA Cycling has been trying to work with Elk Grove Village for the past 16 months to resolve the scheduling conflict. He said he offered ideas to Johnson, such as possibly moving up suburban event to start on Thursday and end a day earlier on Saturday, or finding alternate dates for the race.
"This last May, we went through a number of date options, even offered to move a national championship to try to accommodate them," Rice said. "The schedule is pretty packed (but) for a UCI (sanctioned) event, we do everything we can to accommodate those events."
Rice said he also suggested possibly elevating the status of the tour's women's race, or downgrading the men's race by one category to allow professionals and amateurs to race together, but that the village wasn't receptive to either option.
"They seem very focused on having these pro tour teams eligible," he said.
Rice said the agency gave Elk Grove Village a year to come up with a solution, but Johnson was insistent on keeping the tour's existing dates.
In an open letter published Sunday announcing the cancellation, Johnson said the decision was made to discontinue the event if it could no longer attract elite-level competitors.
"We have always promised that we will only run our cycling event at the highest level and we are greatly disappointed in having to make this decision to end the race," he wrote.
Johnson said Monday it's unfair of USA Cycling and the Tour of Utah to ask Elk Grove to change its race schedule. Moving the event to an earlier or later date could put it in conflict with the Tour de France and the Arlington Million.
"We can't infringe on that," he said.
He said moving the race up a day would be difficult because it involves closing a lot of main roads. "We have a hard enough time closing our business park down Friday," he said.
"We explained all that to them," Johnson added. "That's what's so frustrating. Why are we the ones that are having to move? We are not infringing on Utah. They are infringing on us. Why are we the bad guy?"
Rice said there is really no significant crossover of riders between the Tour of Elk Grove and the Tour of Utah.
"In 2012, the crossover with the men's event was only nine people," he said. "We always want to see top international competition in the United States but there are very few teams that want to do both of these events."
"Elk Grove isn't even on their radar," Rice said of the teams that race in the more mountainous Utah event. "These two races are really great events that can exist on their own and they don't need to share riders. The people that are winning in Elk Grove are nowhere near trying to win in Utah. The people that are winning in Utah are just not interested in a flat race in Elk Grove."
Johnson disputes USA Cycling's figures. He said after this year's Tour of Elk Grove, a third of the men's pro field went onto race in Utah.
"The better teams are going on (to race there)," he said.
Unless the Tour of Utah changes its dates, the Elk Grove event is done for good, Johnson added.
"UCI has been pushing us to upgrade our race every year. We did what they asked us to do and now they are trying to pull the rug from underneath our feet," he said.
Rice said while the Tour of Elk Grove has been around longer than Utah as an amateur event, the Tour of Utah was sanctioned by UCI before Elk Grove.
"We've always felt that the two races have always done fine together because they are so different," he added.
The paperwork hasn't been approved yet to officially strike the Tour of Elk Grove from USA Cycling's racing calendar, but Rice said he already has received several inquiries from events wanting the Tour of Elk Grove's slot.
"The calendar is packed and other people will fill in very quickly," he said.
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