EDMONTON – The economic downturn in Alberta has shortened the Tour of Alberta cycling stage race from six days to five.
Routes and communities for the fourth edition of the race Sept. 1-5 were announced Friday in Edmonton.
“It is no secret that the province as a whole has suffered economically this year,” Alberta Peloton Association chairman Jared Smith said in a statement.
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“As a result of the unscrupulous economic situation, the Alberta Peloton Association made the difficult decision to decrease to a five-day stage race. We empathize with the tour’s prospective host communities and partners who have been hit hard by Alberta’s decline in the economy.
“We are looking ahead to 2017 and beyond when we will return to a six-day event.”
The first stage will be in and around Lethbridge, followed by a leg starting in mountainous Kananaskis Country and ending in Olds. The third stage is from Rocky Mountain House to Drayton Valley.
Day 4 ends in Edmonton, where an 11-lap, 121-kilometre finale in the downtown will be held on the fifth day.
Communities pay rights fees to the Tour of Alberta to host stages. An increase in tourism and race traffic stimulating business and exposure on national television is their return.
Tour of Alberta chief executive officer Duanne Vienneau said in 2014 rights fees range from $100,000 to $350,000 depending on the stage.
The world governing body of cycling, Union Cycliste Internationale, classifies road-stage races in four categories, with the highest having World Tour status. The Tour of Alberta ranks as a Continental Tour because the race includes developmental race teams.
But some of the world’s top riders — winners of Tour de France and Giro d’Italia stages — have participated in the Alberta event since its inception in 2013. Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 Giro winner, competed in the Tour of Alberta in both 2013 and 2015.
Team rosters will be announced in August, but Hesjedal’s Trek-Segafredo outfit has confirmed entrance. Trek’s Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands won last year’s race carrying the overall lead through five of the six stages.
After two years of little elevation gain, the 2015 Tour of Alberta featured a pair of mountain stages in Jasper National Park. The six-day, 900-kilometre event included 120 riders from 15 teams competing for $125,000 in prize money.