The organisers of European races that take place in September will be looking across the Atlantic with some concern following today's announcement of a preliminary route for the Tour of America. What had seemed little more than a gimmick when it was first mooted at the Interbike Show three months ago, especially as it lasted a month, featured stages of ridiculous lengths and had no teams signed up, now looks a more serious prospect.
The route and stages have been trimmed, while the much-heralded prize of US$1 million for the winner remains untouched.
Now the race looks like a major tour but with the added advantage of a very major prize, and that may well lead to concern amongst organisers of events such as the Vuelta, Tour of Britain and perhaps even the World Championships if the team behind the Tour of America can add sponsors and teams to what looks like a fantastic route, starting in New York's Central Park on September 6 and crossing the continent to finish in Palo Alto, California on September 28.
While there is still much to be done before the Tour of America even reaches Central Park, progress is sure to closely watched by Vuelta organisers Unipublic. Not too long ago, the Spanish national tour could legitimately claim to be the sport's second biggest after the Tour, but a resurgence by the Giro, apathy on the part of many teams and riders, widespread criticism about stupidly high racing speeds and a series of Spanish-related doping scandals have left the Vuelta looking for some revitalization of its own.
A reduction to two weeks from three has been mentioned, a move back to a slot in front of the Tour also, and competition with a race claiming it will have a prize fund of US$10 million is only going to increase that kind of talk.
Of course, much depends on the Tour of America's "tentative" route being agreed by both the UCI and the states and cities that are currently on it. But if this can be achieved and the sponsors and budget are located, we may just be looking at the arrival of a fourth major tour or the loss of one of the long-standing three that have graced the sport for so long.
© BikeRadar 2007