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SRAM Tour of the Gila gives up spot on UCI calendar; Battenkill may follow suit

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (VN) — The SRAM Tour of the Gila has changed its plan to upgrade to UCI sanction for 2011 after the New Mexico stage race was unable to raise the necessary money for the upgrade.

The race will return to USA Cycling registration, meaning that ProTeam and UCI Pro Continental squads like UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis will not be allowed to compete. In the past two editions of the race, members of RadioShack, Astana and Garmin-Transitions have raced in three-man squads with alternative uniforms under a compromise with UCI officials.

Gila director Jack Brennan told VeloNews Wednesday that he was not certain that the UCI would allow that compromise this year.

“I’ve been told the UCI is going to be tougher this year about all of that,” Brennan said.

UnitedHealthcare team officials, in North Carolina at the A2 wind tunnel, told VeloNews the change would affect the team’s preparation for the Tour of California.

“It’s a big bummer for us,” said Thierry Attias, president of Momentum Sports Group. the team’s owner.

Mike Tamayo, the team’s sports director and general manager, said the team would likely attend another UCI event the week of the Gila. “(The race’s downgrade) just took five days off my U.S. calendar,” Tamayo said.

Brennan said the race was short about a half million dollars needed to make the upgrade to UCI status. “We had a lot of help locally and from the state and from SRAM, but we just couldn’t raise that additional money … we knew going in that it was going to be a big task.”

Brennan said the race stages this year will be identical to the course in recent years. The only significant change will be the addition of a KOM prize for pro men and women.

Battenkill, too?

Meanwhile, in Cambridge, New York, the organizers of the Tour of the Battenkill Professional Invitational, scheduled as a Men’s UCI 1.2 event on April 16, are considering a consolidation with their amateur event on April 10, citing problems in finding a title sponsor for 2011.

In a release issued Wednesday, organizers said that while several major sponsors including 2010’s presenting sponsor Pepsi have indicated a return for 2011, the event faces a significant challenge to meet its budgetary needs prior to the April event.

The pro event currently holds a spot on the NRC calendar as a 1.HC event for men, and a 1.4 event for women. Any request to combine both pro events with the amateur event would be subject to review and approval by both the UCI and USA Cycling.

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