By Andrew Hood
Plans to host a ProTour race in Russia this year are being waylaid by the world economic crisis.
Officials from the UCI confirmed Wednesday that the planned Tour de Sochi, expected to be held sometime in May, will be pushed back until 2010.
“The new UCI race is well-supported by the Russian government and motivated sponsors,” said a UCI statement released Wednesday. “However, the global economic crisis promoted organizers to delay the race.”
There were already worries that the Sochi tour might be postponed when final dates were not incorporated into the 2009 racing schedule released earlier this year.
The Sochi race is a key element of the high-profile Russian Global Cycling Project, a four-pronged effort to catapult Russian cycling back to the forefront of the international scene.
Also included in the new effort are the new Katusha cycling team, a nationwide effort to promote cycling as well as expanded support for the Russian cycling federation.
Whether the setback affect the Katusha team remains to be seen.
Last month, Katusha team president Andrei Tchmil assured VeloNews that the team’s budget is guaranteed by its Russian sponsors.
“The situation is difficult right now in the world economy, but nothing has changed. We have the support of our sponsors. We are moving forward with confidence,” Tchmil said. “Our budget hasn’t changed by a cent. The money is there, everything that was promised to us. We can continue our work so that the riders can race their bikes.”
In other news, the UCI confirmed its commitment to the ProTour concept. Meeting Wednesday in Switzerland, officials from the ProTour council (CUPT) met Wednesday in Switzerland to discuss plans to further expand “to every continent.”
Officials cited the recent success of the Tour Down Under, which received huge media attention with the return to competition by seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, and the new working agreement with the organizers of the grand tours.
“Members of CUPT reaffirmed their commitment to the development of the UCI ProTour in this more serene, particularly in the context of universalization of cycling,” a statement read. “In this context, the Council has set a goal that, ultimately, at least one UCI ProTour race for each continent.”
Officials also announced efforts to improve training for sport directors with a joint project between the Association of Professional Sport Directors (ADISPRO), the UCI Academy and the University of Manchester.
Finally, officials set the dates for the 2010 Tour Down Under for January 19-24, 201