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Elk Grove bicycle race ranked among top in nation
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff

USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing, has added the Tour of Elk Grove to its national calendar.


Daily Herald file photo, 2007

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Published: 2/25/2009 12:03 AM | Updated: 2/25/2009 11:52 AM

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It may not be an official ranking, but Elk Grove leaders are touting the village's annual three-day Tour of Elk Grove as the number one race in the United States, thanks to new recognition from the sport's governing body.

USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing, has added the Tour to its national calendar, which is the signal that the race has arrived in the national bike racing consciousness and among the top races.

The Tour of Elk Grove, this year July 31- Aug. 2, and the Chicago Criterium each got the highest score, 46 points, based on USA Cycling criteria, including prize money, field of participants, course type and quality, public participation and sponsorship.

"To get that kind of ranking going into our fourth year of racing is just phenomenal," Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson said. "This is a really nice surprise that we received."

Andy Lee, spokesman for USA Cycling, said the point system was merely an "internal ranking."

However, the Tour of Elk Grove has for the first time made USA Cycling's 2009 national racing calendar and is considered among the 31 top cycling events this year. It received the second-highest ranking on the calendar along with two other multiday cycling events in the nation.

Lee said making the calendar itself is an honor.

"USA Cycling sanctions about 2,500 competitive bike races each year," Lee said. "We essentially hand pick the top 30 to 35 races in the country to be a part of this national calendar. It certainly adds a level of prestige to that race."

Lee said new races are never awarded the highest ranking their first year on the calendar.

The five-day Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minnesota, ranked first on USA Cycling's 2009 racing calendar, has been on it for 10 years.

Cyclists who ride in races on the USA calendar earn points that help them gain sponsorships and contracts.

Johnson, who also serves as race director for the Tour of Elk Grove, said he is thrilled with the success of the event.

"When we started out we said we want to make this community proud, and I think this ranking shows just that," he said.

The Tour of Elk Grove originally was meant to be a one-time event marking the village's 50th anniversary in 2006.

But the community response was so overwhelming that officials decided to make it an annual race. More than 800 cyclists participated in 2008. Besides drawing some of the top racers from around the world, the event features a top women's race and some community rides as well.

"We have tens of thousands of people who come to the community during the three days of racing," Johnson said. "We really make it into almost a festival type of atmosphere."