Tour of Elk Grove draws record number of pro cyclists
A record number of professional men and women cyclists -- 125 riders for the men's race alone -- have registered for the Tour of Elk Grove, which begins Friday.
"(It's) the largest field we've ever had," said Mayor Craig Johnson of the professional men's three-day, three-stage criterium.
The 2011 Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove runs through Sunday, Aug. 7. Races are held on village streets.
Overall race registration may be at its highest this year with roughly 1,200 cyclists expected from the United States and worldwide.
"We think it's going to be a record-setting year," Johnson said. "Each year we've been getting bigger, we've been getting better. We've got three out of our past five champions back to race.
"Over half of the field in the pro race are non-Americans; 15 countries are represented in the men's pro field. That shows the true international field that we have at the Tour of Elk Grove."
Johnson attributes the turnout to the Tour being sanctioned this year by Union Cycliste Internationale. The Tour of Elk Grove is one of only six races in the United States that are recognized by UCI, the Switzerland-based world governing body that oversees international competitive cycling events.
The Tour also is on USA Cycling's prestigious Men's National Racing Calendar. USA Cycling is the sanctioning body for competitive cycling in the U.S.
The Tour's professional women's race, which for the first time will be held over three days and involves three stages just like the men's criterium, is new to the calendar this year.
Johnson said there is a lot of interest in the women's race this year. He anticipates the number of cyclists participating will be double from last year.
"We estimate between 65 and 70 riders, which is the largest field we've had for a women's pro race," he said. "We're the only game in town this weekend for women. We've got eight teams signed up at this point so it's exciting to have these kind of fields for our races."
Johnson said the professional men's purse is $110,000, which is the largest for any three-day, three-stage race in the world. The women's purse also is higher than it has ever been at $15,000.
It used to be about $5,000 for two individual races on Saturday and Sunday, he added.
In both the professional men's and women's races, winners get a purse for each stage, and there is an overall purse for the race champion.
The Tour, now in its sixth year, features a total of 15 pro/amateur races, including time trials for the professional men's race and -- for the first time -- the women's race; an adaptive athlete race; a children's Big Wheel race; the Mayor's Charity Time-Trial,; and a Village Trustees' Fun Ride, with a total prize purse of more than $150,000.
"What the women really like is the fact that we're doing a time trial," Johnson said. "They very seldom get a chance to do a time trial. We'll be looking to expand the women's race next year, which means we might do longer stages and a bigger purse."