Tour of America shoots for the stars

Organisers say they're "absolutely committed to making it happen"

The Tour of America is the most ambitious plan for a professional bike race in recent times and when revealed on September 26, the proposed route was met with disbelief by the cycling community.

With more than a month of racing over 27 stages - some more than 400km long - covering a massive 7500km, it recalled the early days of the Tour de France. Yet even in its sadistic heyday, the longest Tour was still only 5,745km.

Continuing with the bigger is better theme, the ToA wants to offer a prize purse of US$11million, hoping to attract the world's top pro riders. That's a lot of money in the cycling world, and if the organisers can raise the cash then they might just get the big names across to the USA. The overall race budget is US$30million, which will mostly be raised from 27 different sponsors putting in $1million each.

The man behind the scheme is Frank Arokiasamy, president of the North Carolina-based sports management company Aqu, Inc. He has already come under fire for his bold proposal, but Arokiasamy told BikeRadar that he is "absolutely committed to making it happen" and has started talking to teams.

But to work within UCI rules, the race will have to change. "We have spoken to the UCI and USA Cycling, but responses haven't been great," said Arokiasamy. "They want the race to be shorter."

That means reducing it to 21 days with stage lengths in line with the other grand tours of France, Italy and Spain. It plans to visit "every one of the 48 states in the contiguous US" at least once over the course of five years.

There is also the question of when to hold it. Arokiasamy is thinking of "September and October", although this would clash with the Tour of Spain and world championships, as well as the late season classics. If a date can be found, then Arokiasamy hopes to make the Tour of America "a part of the world cycling calendar with all the best cyclists coming along for the ride. If we create a grand slam of cycling with Tour de France, the Giro, the Vuelta and the Tour of USA nicely scheduled, we think it would change the face of cycling and bring it to the forefront of the sport psyche worldwide."

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