Cyclists hopeful Tour of Alberta will return to city down the road

Professional cycling enthusiasts are disappointed but not surprised that the City of Red Deer took a pass on hosting the 2016 Tour of Alberta.

Professional cycling enthusiasts are disappointed but not surprised that the City of Red Deer took a pass on hosting the 2016 Tour of Alberta.

George Berry, chairman of the 2013 and 2014 local organizing committee, said there is a lot to look forward to next year in Red Deer.

He said the energy has shifted to excitement for next year’s Memorial Cup and the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

“I am certainly hoping it will come back,” said Berry. “The name of the race is Tour of Alberta. They will be moving it around. If Red Deer isn’t there in 2016, I don’t think that will disqualify us from looking at 2017 or subsequent years as the race grows.”

Red Deer hosted the second finishing stage in 2014 and in the race’s inaugural year in 2013.

Last year, the city pitched in $100,000 in cash and $54,000 in kind for services. In 2013, the city allocated $77,000.

On Monday, city administration said the price tag this year for all associated costs would be about $350,000, of which most would come out of the city’s coffers.

The 2014 tour was expected to bring in an estimated $650,000 in economic spinoffs to Central Alberta.

But council expressed concern about putting too much on the plates of volunteers over the next three years on top of the two national events already on the calendar.

Roughly 200 volunteers were needed for the cycling event in 2014.

Still, council did not close the door on hosting future events, something that Greg Neiman, a member of the 2013 and 2014 local organizing committees, said is good news.

The avid cyclist said the international cycling event helps grow interest in the sport.

He said the provincial tour gave Red Deerians exposure to a sport that many people in this part of the country would otherwise never have witnessed first-hand.

“In the U.S. and Eastern Canada, cities are familiar with bike racing,” said Neiman. “They know what it is and what it looks like. Out here in the West, it is very much an unknown. I think Red Deer gave this area a really good introduction to how exciting the sport can be.”

Red Deer was not officially asked to host the event but there was talk about hosting the prologue, which are time trials to determine starting positions for the actual race within the city.

Neiman said people would have seen more of the race because the entire stage would have been held here. He said it is more team oriented, which makes it more fun to watch how the teams work together.

“It is watched by millions of people around the world,” said Neiman. “More people watch professional cycle racing than watch professional football. It really puts the city’s amenities on the map if we could put our best foot forward as hosts.”

Stage 1 of the 2015 Tour of Alberta starts today in Grande Prairie.

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