This year's Tour de France welcomes the most U.S.-based teams and among the most American racers in the 97-year-history of cycling's pinnacle event. Four teams--RadioShack, BMC, Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia--all call the United States home, the highest representation of any one nation at the 2010 Tour de France other than France, which also boasts four teams.
At the same time, the interest in racing in the United States has risen year after year. So far in 2010, racing licenses registered through USA Cycling are up 7 percent. This is in addition to a 5.6 percent rise last year and a huge increase during the last decade, with USA Cycling membership growing 56 percent from 42,724 racers in 2002 to 66,800 racers in 2009.
This is all good news according to USA Cycling, the organization responsible for building American cyclists into world-class athletes and for elevating the sport of competitive cycling in our nation. This year's Tour de France offers a great platform to discuss America's progress in the sport of cycling and help foster new race fans.
"The United States now has some of the best cyclists in the world, determined not only by the number of superstars like Lance (Armstrong), Levi (Leipheimer) and George (Hincapie), but also in the successes of the young, up-and-comers like Tyler Farrar, Tejay Van Garderen and Taylor Phinney," said Jim Miller, vice president of athletics for USA Cycling. "This rise in the number of elite American cyclists who can compete--and win--on an international stage is no coincidence."
Miller is referring to the success of USA Cycling's National Development Programs, which were redesigned in 2000 specifically to develop American athletes into internationally competitive cyclists and raise the bar for the sport within the United States. With a typical incubation time for developing a world-class racer at an average of eight years, the results from the start of USA Cycling's development programs are just recently taking hold.
Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie were part of the USA Cycling National Team, a precursor to the current development structure, while athletes like David Zabriskie (2000), Danny Pate (2001), Tyler Farrar (2001, 2003-2005) and Brent Bookwalter (2005-2006) built the foundation of their careers while training and racing in Europe as part of USA Cycling's National Development Program for road cycling. Young stars, like Tejay Van Garderen and Taylor Phinney, have been a part of USA Cycling's programs since their early teenage years.
"We are proud to witness the impact of USA Cycling's National Development Programs on both individual racers and on the sport as a whole, which benefits greatly from the talent, notoriety and competition that these hard-working, amazing athletes bring to cycling," Miller added. "This year's Tour de France should be among the most exciting yet for sports fans in the United States."
Many view cycling's superstars, and the next generation of athletes, as great role models, inspiring mounting American enthusiasm for the sport and a thriving amateur racing circuit. The top six states for USA Cycling membership--including California, Texas, New York, Colorado, Washington and Pennsylvania--combined have nearly 22,000 cyclists with racing licenses. The greatest increase in non-elite racers has been men age 35 or older. USA Cycling hopes the next step will be to encourage more women to join the ranks of competitive cycling as it continues to apply its successful development initiatives across all five disciplines of cycling.
Recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, USA Cycling is the official governing body for all disciplines of competitive cycling in the United States, including road, track, mountain bike, BMX and cyclo-cross. As a membership-based organization, USA Cycling comprises 66,500+ licensees; 2,200 clubs and teams; and 34 local associations. The national governing body sanctions 2,650 competitive and non-competitive events throughout the U.S. each year and is responsible for the identification, development, and support of American cyclists.
About USA Cycling's National Development Programs
One of USA Cycling's dual missions is to achieve sustained success in international cycling competition. To that end, USA Cycling maintains development programs for all disciplines of competitive cycling, including men's and women's U25 and junior road; mountain bike; track (endurance and sprint) and BMX development programs. These programs provide a structured pathway to the top tier of the sport through athlete development that begins with Junior racing series, Regional Development Camps and racing and moves through to international competition. For more about USA Cycling's Athlete Development Programs, visit www.usacycling.org/ndp/.