Russian stage race back on track

Ambitious plans to bring an international stage race to Russia are back online.

Ambitious plans to bring an international stage race to Russia are back online.

VeloNews has learned that Russian officials have reached out to the UCI to help reignite plans to create a week-long stage race that ran out of steam following the world economic crisis in late 2008.

“It’s back, in fact, we are working on that now,” the UCI’s Alain Rumpf told VeloNews. “I cannot give a time line, but it’s back on the agenda and I am optimistic that the race can happen.”

Rumpf is the UCI’s point man on the cycling governing body’s efforts to expand top-level professional road racing across the globe to exotic markets far removed from the sport’s traditional base in Europe.

In an interview published Thursday, Rumpf outlined the UCI’s plans to host a five-day stage race at the Tour of Beijing in October. Teams have vowed to boycott the race, but UCI officials are hopeful a compromise over the race radio ban can be hammered out and that the Chinese race will unfold as expected.

With Russia’s economy clicking back into gear, officials there are reviving plans to create a WorldTour level race that was shelved by sinking oil prices and instability in the international markets nearly three years ago.

Rumpf said the effort is just getting off the ground, but suggested there is strong backing from leading Russian officials. The Russian-backed Katusha ProTeam squad is the centerpiece of a larger effort to revive Russian cycling and bring it back to its powerhouse levels during the Soviet era.

“Part of the project of the Russian government to develop cycling is not only the team, but also a race,” Rumpf said. “The economic crisis put the project on hold, but now things are better. The Russian cycling federation is coming back to us to work on the project.”

Details are just emerging, but it appears that the race would be centered around the Sochi region along the Black Sea. Sochi will also play host to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and Russian officials are hoping to develop the area as a year-round, international tourist destination.