With the American economy teetering on the brink of a recession the ripples across the USA haven't been limited to housing foreclosures. This past week several long-standing bicycle races and one well, never-to-be race announced that they were modifying their plans for 2008. This might just be the tip of the iceberg for the sport which has been struggling for sponsorship dollars in light of widespread doping fears and the squabbling between the sport's governing bodies and race organizers.
Of course, most of the negative side of cycling seems to be taking place on the other side of the pond, but some of these high profile issues have an impact on domestic racing. Just recently there was a regime change in USA Cycling. Outgoing president Jim Ochowicz has served a maximum three two-year terms. His place will be taken by Mark Abramson, who in his mid-30's is in a perfect position to attract the generation X crowd, wooed by the likes of Michael Ball's Rock Racing Team, into the sport of cycling. It is clear that capturing the hearts and minds of the 20-34 age crowd is critical to the success and continued longevity of the sport. Best of luck.
Back to the present, the Tour of Virginia will not be held in 2008 citing sponsorship woes, but it is hoping to return in 2009. One of the lynch pins in the late summer racing calendar, Pennsylvania's Tour de Toona is downsizing it's seven day schedule to a single day criterium. When one of the hallmark events drops 86% of it's bodyweight it is time to stand up and take notice.
On a slightly different note, the Tour of America, which many feel will never be held, announced that it will move its inaugural start date from 2008 to 2009.This cross-continent event seems more flash than substance with stage lengths and locations that appear to be difficult to attract sponsors. Hey, the organizers get points for trying, but a big dose of reality might be best path to success.
Before everyone starts hopping a plane for wet, cold and dreary Belgium and its packed calendar of races take a deep breath and let's see how extensive the damage may really be. The Redlands Bicycle Classic started today; the Sea Otter Classic and all the other big domestic races appear to be healthy. Let's hope our domestic pros have enough opportunities to strut their stuff in 2008! They deserve it.