With 18 domestic and international teams already selected to compete in the inaugural running of the American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania Presented By Highmark Healthy High, race organizers today released the details of the demanding 450-mile, six-day race route.
A complete field of 20 to 22 teams will compete June 24 through June 29 in this first-of-its kind U-25 cycling stage race that will showcase the sport’s next generation of superstars, and guarantee a prize purse of US$125,000.
The cyclists will battle for the leader’s jersey along a historically rich route. Beginning on hallowed cycling ground in Philadelphia, the route passes through towns and countryside that roughly follow Forbes Road (U.S. 30), which was forged in 1758 by British General John Forbes and Colonel George Washington. The race culminates in Pittsburgh as part of the city’s 250th anniversary celebration.
Seven Pennsylvania towns and cities will host the official race starts and finishes, with communities along the way gaining a first-hand look at the world’s best young talent in the kind of competition that is normally found only in Europe. In addition to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the host cities include Downingtown, Carlisle, Camp Hill, Bedford, Latrobe and Ligonier.
“The Tour of Pennsylvania offers $150,000 in total prize money, the richest in the world for Espoir class riders, plus it is the only UCI sanctioned race in the U.S. specifically for riders under age 25,” said David Chauner, Pro Cycling Tour president and executive director of the race that is being organized as part of a statewide celebration of Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary.
“That combination has stimulated worldwide interest and applications from many more squads than could be accepted for the race. Our technical team has designed a route that will test the endurance, power and technical skill of these young athletes who are on the road to becoming cycling’s next Olympians and Tour de France competitors.”
Highlights of the 2008 Tour of Pennsylvania include:
Stage 1: Prologue Time Trials/Philadelphia Criterium (Tuesday, June 24, 2008)
(Start time: 10 a.m. for time trials; 6 p.m. for criterium) With start and finish lines in front of majestic Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park for both the time trial and criterium circuits, Stage 1 places competitors on the same ground as historic events like the 1947 National Cycling Championships, the famous Keystone Open and the Pennsylvania State Track Championships. The two-mile time trial circuit incorporates the Memorial Hall concourse as well as Philly’s scenic Martin Luther King Drive. The 1.2-mile criterium, which will total 25 miles, will also play out on the Memorial Hall concourse. Day One will conclude with an auto transfer to Downingtown.
Stage 2: Downingtown to Carlisle (Wednesday, June 25, 2008)
(Start time: 10 a.m.) A 91-mile road race, Stage 2 takes riders through the heart of Amish country where they’ll likely find themselves pedaling alongside Lancaster County’s distinctive horse-and-buggy transportation. This course begins on mostly rolling terrain, with smooth roads giving the riders a day to ease their way into the race. However, two intermediate sprints will test their power in Ephrata and Hershey. The course will also allow the riders to find their climbing legs with a 2.5 mile subtle, yet all-important King of the Mountain (KOM) sprint at the top of Spring Hill. The final sprint will be fast with a straight lead-in (and great vantage point for spectators) to the finish line in Carlisle in front of Dickenson College. (Auto transfer to Camp Hill.)
Stage 3: Camp Hill to Bedford (Thursday, June 26, 2008)
(Start time: 10 a.m.) Day 3 starts in Camp Hill at presenting sponsor Highmark’s campus there. This stage features a 104-mile road race with a classic European Road race progression. Riders will roll into the race easily for about 37 miles, with sprints in Carlisle and Chambersburg, before ascending the first of two mountain passes. The first KOM begins at mile 63 and climbs 3.5 miles to the top of Tuscarora Summit, a climb that is only the beginning of some very difficult passes to come. The final KOM is at mile 82 at Sideling Hill – this climb is about three miles long with an elevation gain of 2,500 feet. After the KOM, the riders will descend at speeds of 50 mph, negotiating some very technical turns, plummeting down to the finish line in the town of Bedford.
Stage 4: Bedford to Latrobe (Friday, June 27, 2008)
(Start time: 10 a.m.) This 60-mile stage will push the riders to their limits with the most elevation gain and the hardest of all climbs in the event. After departing the town of Bedford, the roll will be easy for only 15 miles before turning upward for a difficult climb to Bald Knob Summit, the first KOM for the day. Bald Knob Summit is a 5.5-mile climb with grades of 10 to 15 percent and will surely decide the day’s top climbers, as they make their way up and over the Allegheny Mountains.
After a slight rolling descent, the riders will again go up hill and crest the Laurel Hill Summit at mile 40 for the second KOM of the day. This two-mile climb is shorter but with a very intense mountain pass that will also see grades of 15 percent. The descent into the last leg of the day will be fast, but will also have a flat section, rolling through Ligonier and following the river into Latrobe with a tricky sprint finish in the downtown area. This day is likely to be the hardest stage and will certainly separate the field, revealing who the potential leaders will be for the week.
Stage 5: Ligonier to Pittsburgh (Saturday, June 28, 2008)
(Auto transfer from Latrobe to Ligonier. Start time: 12 noon) This 83-mile stage will give the riders a more subdued ride as they enter into downtown Pittsburgh. The route will follow a mostly rolling course with one short KOM at mile 21 and one last intermediate sprint at mile 38 on the outskirts of Latrobe. The race will continue towards Pittsburgh with a sprint finish at the headquarters of title sponsor American Eagle Outfitters. Spectators should be prepared for a thrilling, four-corner downtown sprint finish.
Stage 6: Pittsburgh Criterium (Sunday, June 29, 2008)
(Start time: 5 p.m.) The culmination of the Tour of Pennsylvania will be a 50 mile, classic criterium in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. A four-corner style course with a slight rise in part of the route, the criterium will offer dynamite spectating for the final day of this history-making, six-day journey now known as the Tour of Pennsylvania.