LOS ANGELES, CA (BRAIN)—Since its inception in 2006, the Tour of California has always taken place in February, but not anymore.
Next year’s stage race will now take place May 16-23, during the same time frame as the famed Giro d’Italia. Reasons for the move include better weather and to also take advantage of the Sierras, something they obviously couldn’t do in February.
“I hope the fans and the industry will be enthusiastic [about having the Tour of California] in May,” said Steve Baker, marketing director for Hincapie Sportswear—a sponsor of the race. “We’ll still be involved [as a sponsor].”
Baker added that it will be interesting in how things shake out from a team perspective, with the Giro’s dates clashing with the Tour of California. “You would hope that the support would still be there,” Baker said of the Tour of California.
Andrew Messick, president of race organizer AEG Sports, didn’t return phone calls.
Felt Bicycles marketing director Doug Martin said moving the Tour of California to May should certainly address past weather concerns. Moreover, moving the race to May is more in line with many teams' and sponsors’ primary goals. Felt sponsors the race as well.
“I’m sure AEG and UCI have done their due diligence including the polling of top teams to ensure they can still attract the type of field they want, knowing that May placement falls right after the spring classics and potentially conflicts with the Giro,” Martin said.
Although SRAM doesn’t sponsor the Tour of California or Giro, SRAM global marketing director David Zimberoff said the company was surprised to hear that the Tour of California would coincide with the Giro.
“They are both great events, and should have been in the position to have the best athletes in the world compete at either,” he said. “We thought April might have been a better choice.”
Even with some rainy weather at the outset of this year’s Tour of California, the nine-day stage race broke attendance records, with thousands of fans flocking to San Diego County’s Mount Palomar, watching the cyclists compete in the final day of the race. Levi Leipheimer won this year’s race, capturing a three-peat at the Tour of California.
Scott USA vice president and general manager Scott Montgomery enjoyed the Tour of California essentially being the kick off to the cycling season.
“It brought all the superstars from Europe,” Montgomery said. “Clearly, they won’t have some of the top names [for 2010]."
The flipside is, of course, the weather. “The weather is clearly going to be better,” Montgomery said. “That will be good for the spectators.”