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Tour of Willamette 86’d for ’02

The 23rd edition of Oregon’s Tour of Willamette has been canceled — not for lack of interest, but for lack of money, according to race director Larry Smith. “While we have the infrastructure and volunteers ready and willing, the Tour of Willamette remains far from adequately funded to present a top-quality and safe event for competitors, the community, and committed followers,” Smith wrote in a posting to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association’s listserv. “And the economic downturn of recent months wreaked havoc not only with the sponsorship budgets of businesses here in Lane County, but

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The 23rd edition of Oregon’s Tour of Willamette has been canceled — not for lack of interest, but for lack of money, according to race director Larry Smith.

“While we have the infrastructure and volunteers ready and willing, the Tour of Willamette remains far from adequately funded to present a top-quality and safe event for competitors, the community, and committed followers,” Smith wrote in a posting to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association’s listserv.

“And the economic downturn of recent months wreaked havoc not only with the sponsorship budgets of businesses here in Lane County, but with those of companies from around the country.”

The Tour of Willamette has drawn some top-notch talent over the years. Last year’s winners were Alison Dunlap and Eric Wohlberg. Other recent Willamette champs have included Mari Holden and Scott Moninger (2000); Lyne Bessette and Thurlow Rogers (1999); Suzy Pryde and Kirk Willett (1998); and Linda Jackson and Steve Larsen (1997).Still, though KMTR NewSource 16 had pledged more than $100,000 in TV airtime for the April 9-14 stage race, and the Outdoor Life Network had signed on to provide national coverage, Smith said, the cost of producing the National Racing Calendar event “has grown faster than sponsorship commitments.”

Happily, Smith hasn’t thrown in the towel altogether. Saying he was saddened, but not beaten, he wrote, “We are moving forward even today with a commitment to bring the Tour of Willamette back in 2003 better than before.”

Smith shouldn’t lack for registrants, if he’s successful. After his online announcement, subsequent postings to the OBRA listserv included this, from Jonathan Puskas, “Many of us began looking forward to it immediately upon recovering from last year’s event,” and this, from Eric Kytola, “The Tour of Willamette was the reason I have been riding in the rain since November.”“I hope that he can bring it back next year,” added OBRA’s Candi Murray. “It was a gnarly race.”