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No Tour de Georgia in ’09

State officials and sponsors say they’ll be back in 2010

By Steve Frothingham

2008 Tour de Georgia winner Konstantin Sivtsov atop Brasstown Bald.

2008 Tour de Georgia winner Konstantin Sivtsov atop Brasstown Bald.

Photo: Action Images

The Tour de Georgia will not be held next year, but the race’s backers say it will be back in 2010.

The race’s board of directors announced Friday that they will use 2009 to “plan ahead and properly position” the race for 2010.

“We believe that this unique and exciting event will endure,” said Tom Saddlemire, a member of the board and recently retired CFO of GE Energy.

The race backers said that by many measures the event has been wildly successful.

“Over the course of six years, the Tour de Georgia has attracted 3.2 million spectators, many of whom traveled to Georgia from out of state, and generated a direct economic impact totaling over $186 million,” said Craig Lesser, former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “The 2008 Tour de Georgia, our most successful Tour yet, yielded over $38.6 million in direct economic impact for the state. We have come a long way since 2003.”

The 2008 event also raised nearly $3.2 million in operating expenses and commitments for more than $500,000 in support of cancer research through the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare and the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Despite the fund raising and competitive successes, the race has often struggled to find title sponsors, signing its “Presenting Sponsor,” AT&T, in January last year.

Taking a year off has worked for other major domestic events. The Tour of Utah skipped its 2007 edition and returned strongly in 2008.

Team Columbia owner Bob Stapleton called the cancellation “a shame.” Konstantin Sivtsov, riding for the team then known as High Road, won the 2008 event.

“It’s always been a very good race, both from an athletic standpoint and also from an organizational standpoint,” Stapleton told VeloNews. “I was always very encouraged by the support the race got from the state of Georgia. I hope they can come back.”

Stapleton said the world wide financial crisis is creating the “worse environment for sports marketing for 20 years,” which likely has contributed to the Georgia race’s difficulties.

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