After American Levi Leipheimer and his Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team claimed overall titles in the inaugural USA Cycling Professional Tour, the national governing body announced today its second-annual, season-long professional road cycling calendar.
With 16 races on tap for 2008, this season's USA Cycling Professional Tour features three more races than its predecessor, including a pair of brand new events, several traditional incumbents and some recently revamped or renamed properties.
The 2008 Pro Tour features five major multi-day stage races across the country, giving spectators around the nation an opportunity to witness the sport at its highest level of competition. With Tours of California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Missouri on the calendar, cycling enthusiasts from the West Coast, the Deep South, the East Coast, the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest can follow world-class athletes as they race through local communities across America.
In addition to the five stage races on the 2008 Pro Tour, road cycling athletes will also compete in 10 single-day events, including seven road races, one circuit race, one criterium and one time trial. Additionally, one omnium-style event will be included on this season's calendar. Collectively, the calendar offers 44 race days compared to 32 days of racing in 2007.
"This season's Pro Tour calendar epitomizes the continued growth of professional cycling in America," commented Sean Petty, USA Cycling Chief Operating Officer. "After a record number of internationally-sanctioned events in the United States last season, the expansion in 2008 in terms of events and race days provides affirmation that world-class cycling is continuing to make significant strides in this country."
The calendar will once again begin with the Amgen Tour of California - an eight-day stage race in the Golden State which has historically attracted the sport's top international teams and athletes. Scheduled for Feb. 17-24, the 2008 Amgen Tour of California will feature several new stages, most notably the opening prologue in Palo Alto and the final stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena.
After the U.S. Cycling Open, which is tentatively scheduled for April 13, multi-day racing resumes with the sixth-annual Tour de Georgia, April 21-27. Billed as a tune-up for the Tour de France, the seven-stage race welcomes five first-time host cities as riders from around the world are expected to return to the U.S. for America's longest-running UCI-sanctioned stage race.
The following weekend, the U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic in Arlington, Va. (formerly the Crystal City Classic) will challenge the nation's best sprinters in a single-day circuit race. Set for May 4, the U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic offers one of the most spectator-friendly courses.
After its debut on the international calendar last September, the Tour de Leelanau in Traverse City, Mich. moves to the earlier date of May 24. The 109-mile race marks the first of four consecutive single-day events before the international peloton heads back East.
The traditional early June series of one-day races in Eastern Pennsylvania will feature the Commerce Bank Allentown Classic on June 3, the Commerce Bank Reading Classic on June 5 and the Philadelphia International Championship on June 8. Collectively, the races represent some of the most prestigious on the North American calendar given the history of racing in and around Philadelphia and a long list of winners which includes a who's who of American cycling over the past 23 years.
Following the Philadelphia International Championship, the younger riders of the international peloton will remain in Pennsylvania for the inaugural American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania. Set for June 24-29, the six-day U-25 race will cater to competitors under the age of 25.
Expanding upon its traditional single-day format, the Rochester Omnium (formerly the Rochester Twilight Criterium) in upstate New York will feature three days of racing tied together by an overall points classification. Scheduled for August 8-10, riders will contest a time trial, a criterium and a road race as a final tune-up for the following week's Pro Tour event - the USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championships. Returning to Downers Grove, Ill. on August 17, Americans will once again compete for a Stars-and-Stripes jersey and the title of national champion on the streets of suburban Chicago.
Next, the three-day Colorado Stage Race brings Pro Tour racing to the Rocky Mountains and the Vail Valley area August 22-24.
For the third consecutive year, Greenville, South Carolina will welcome the nation's top road pros over Labor Day Weekend for the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships. Scheduled for August 30-31, the event will welcome home several Americans following the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing as they next look to add a national title to their résumé.
Another long-time, one-day race, the Univest Grand Prix in Souderton, Pennsylvania will offer 107 miles of racing on Sept. 6 as riders look to accumulate late-season points towards an overall Pro Tour championship.
Finally, after a successful debut in 2007, the Tour of Missouri will again close the calendar, Sept. 8-14, as many of the world's top international teams are expected to return to America for the season finale. After racing from Kansas City to St. Louis in the inaugural edition, riders will again pass through many of the state's major communities while hoping to secure the final points necessary for an overall USA Cycling Professional Tour title.
The USA Cycling Professional Tour was created in 2007 as Leipheimer and the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team claimed overall individual and team titles respectively. Leipheimer finished the season with 381 points over teammate George Hincapie, Germany's Bernard Eisel, Juan Jose Haedo of Argentina and Slovenia's Janez Brajkovic. The now-defunct Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team earned the team title with 810 points over Team CSC (DEN), Team Slipstream-Chipotle (USA), T-Mobile (GER) and Navigator's Insurance (USA).
2008 USA Cycling Professional Tour:
Feb. 17-24: Amgen Tour of California
Apr. 13: U.S. Cycling Open - Richmond, Virgina*
Apr. 21-27: Tour de Georgia
May 4: U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic - Virginia
May 24: Tour de Leelanau - Traverse City, Michigan
June 3: Commerce Bank Allentown Classic - Pennsylvania
June 5: Commerce Bank Reading Classic - Pennsylvania
June 8: Commerce Bank International Championship - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 24-29: American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania
Aug. 8-10: Rochester Omnium - New York
Aug. 17: USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships - Downers Grove, Illinois
Aug. 22-24: The Colorado Stage Race
Aug. 30: USA Cycling Professional Time Trial National Championships - Greenville, South Carolina
Aug. 31: USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships - Greenville, South Carolina
Sept. 6: Univest Grand Prix - Souderton, Pennsylvania
Sept. 8-14: Tour of Missouri
*Date tentative (subject to change)
© BikeRadar & USA Cycling 2008