Race organizers announced that the Tour de Georgia will not be held in 2009. While this is the official announcement, I have been talking about the demise of Georgia's premier bike race since late last spring. Most recently, I speculated if Lance's return to cycling could save the event.
It is not fair to blame Lance for the demise of the race. Yes, it is true that the event really blossomed the two years (2004, 2005) when the Texan rode it, but the organizers were unable to build on the buzz. Maybe it is just too difficult to sell cycling in a region where NASCAR has such a stranglehold on the sports community.
I think the organizers have to bear the responsibility for the demise. Last year, the race visited such cycling hot beds as Tybee Island and Savannah where crowds were almost non-existent. However, if you saw the final stage in downtown Atlanta, the site of the 1996 Olympics, there were no crowds there as well. So, either Georgia is just too much about four, and not two, wheels going fast or the race organizers just didn't do enough to whip up enthusiasm.
It was just reported that the title sponsor for the Tour of California, Amgen, will be printing up 60,000 handbooks using cycling to teach core subjects which will be distributed to 4th-6th grade students in schools at the race's 16 host cities. That's a move that has grass roots written all over it.
OK. Maybe this is a case of the cart before the horse and the fact that the Tour de Georgia could never land a long-term title sponsor (this will be Amgen's fourth year at the Tour of California) was really at the core of the problem and not the lack of fan support. But, it could be argued that without the fan support, you can't land a long-term title sponsor. Do I sense a Catch-22?
Whatever the reason, the Tour de Georgia won't be held in 2009. With the recent postponement of the Tour of Colorado, let's hope that all the other major US stage races, Missouri, Utah, etc. are healthy and happy with a long-term title sponsor.