The Tour of California's February scheduling has coincided with nasty weather for the past two years, prompting the organisers to move the 2010 race to May 16 - 23. That means it overlaps with the all-important Giro d'Italia, but ToC organiser Andrew Messick has justified his decision, saying he wants the race to be part of the main 'European' racing season.
Talking to Cyclingnews recently, Messick said: "It takes us out of what’s generally perceived as the pre-season of cycling and puts us in a time position that's in-line with the middle of the season. From our perspective it allows us to showcase more of the Tour of California and ride into the mountains that we couldn’t get to before.
"The reality is that, historically, the period from Paris-Nice to the end of the Tour de France has been perceived as the main European racing season and we’ve been out of that. That’s something that we’re working our way through and we’re optimistic that we’re going to continue to get the kind of riders and the kind of teams that we want. We’re also hopeful that having an important race outside of Europe at that time will be good for us and the sport of cycling."
Messick hopes that the warmer weather in May will help attract a better quality field to California, although he will lose the drawcard of the race being in a pre-season slot. That has had other benefits for top European teams, who've had training camps in northern and southern California before the ToC, as well as face time with American sponsors, many of whom are based in California, and wind tunnel time in San Diego.
But with the Tour of Qatar and the Tour Down Under, the warm weather options have grown for most teams. With Lance Armstrong's triumphant return to the peloton, several things have changed for the Tour of California organisers, and getting stuck with bad February weather was beginning to take its toll on riders, their staff, volunteers and spectators. It seemed California in February wasn't living up to its image of blue skies, warm sunshine and palm trees.
To read more of Messick's master plan, visit Cyclingnews.com.
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