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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Cycling News Special for November 18, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson

Threshold responds to USPRO changes

By Mark Zalewski

Threshold CEO David Chauner, pictured in 2003 at the launch of the San Francisco GP.
Photo: © Mitchell Clinton
Click for larger image

As one of the major promoters of pro cycling races in the U.S., Threshold Sports has had a less than ideal week. The San Francisco City Council has accused Threshold of owing the city money from the San Francisco GP and the USPRO Championships, previously organised by Threshold, has moved from Philadelphia to a new venue after 21 years. Combine this with reports that prize money for the 2005 Philadelphia series had not been paid and rumors that the major sponsor for the past two decades, Wachovia, had decided not to renew as title sponsor, and it would be easy to foresee a grim future for the race and organization. However, Threshold's President and CEO David Chauner tells Cyclingnews that, as in show business, the race will go on!

"Our situation was this," Chauner explains. "Clearly the format needed to change to an all-American event. We created the event over 21 years, and its recognition all over the world as a major one-day race, and for the city of Philadelphia, is great. When faced with the decision to turn it into an all U.S. race, it was not a choice for us. We need to keep it a major international race. And having the first American over the line as champion was confusing anyways. So we feel the race will be much more better just going back to an international category."

For the past few months, speculation was rife about a change to an American-only format. Chauner says a bid was submitted to USA Cycling that included the option of an all-US championship within the current Phily week format. However, the response from USA Cycling CEO Gerard Bisceglia was not a warm one for Threshold. "We had thought about doing [a U.S. only race] in Lancaster, but Gerard said we wouldn't get the permit for more than one year. And that was not acceptable, so we pulled our bid. We did not have a firm sponsors -- we have many in the wings we are talking to, but none that could be announced. We felt that Gerard was being too heavy handed about the whole bid process. Our goal is to continue to grow the Pro Cycling Tour, and that is our choice."

With all that has happened, particularly in recent days regarding financial matters with the San Francisco race, it is possible to deduce that money is also the problem surround the Philadelphia races. Reports that prize money had not been paid for this year's race circulated a few months ago, but Chauner assures that the process for that just took longer than usual. "Prize money checks are going out today. For 21 years we have paid all of our bills and all of our prize money. The fact that it's later than normal is unfortunate, but not for the lack of the ability to pay. Many other countries don't pay until the fourth quarter, so it's normal."

As for next year's Philly week, Chauner is quick to quell the rumors that without Wachovia, the race will not happen. "Plans are going along very well. We haven't announced it yet, but everyone seems to know that Wachovia is not coming back. We've had meetings with the mayor and governor, and the community does not want to lose the race. We are currently talking to potential sponsors, but I will emphasize that the race will happen and that we have the financial underpinnings for that." He also announced that the schedule will change for 2006. "We will have Lancaster on Sunday June 4, Philly on the following Sunday and a potential for another race in Pennsylvania somewhere in the middle."

In regards to the possible negative effect of not having the stars and stripes jersey on the line to draw European-based American pros, Chauner concedes this might be a problem, "but we are going to extend invitations to more teams around the world. We are looking at more national teams from around the world as well. I think there will still be many American pros on European teams that will want to come here."

Chauner also looks on the positive side of the USPRO decision, with the possibility of boosting other races around the same time, including his race in San Francisco. "I think its great it will be in Greenville, and I'm sure the Medalist guys will do a great job. And being right before San Francisco, it's a potential win-win situation for everyone."

"The talk about losing our luster without the USPRO is not true," says Chauner. "It's been indicated form the beginning and that is how they wanted to go, and I don't think it's worth it for us to do that. We want to keep events in the calendar year after year. Any race that we do can be better than an all U.S. championship. We are by no means done."

Threshold announces Philly week details

Shortly after Cyclingnews spoke to Threshold CEO Dave Chauner, the company announced details of the 2006 Philly week races.

The keynote race of the week's festivities will now be known as the Philadelphia International Championship and will be held on Sunday, June 11. It will be preceded by the PCT Championship of the Americas on Sunday, June 4, in Lancaster, and the PCT Invitational on June 8 (host venue TBD). The 56 mile Women's Liberty Classic, run simultaneously with the men's race on June 11, will also retain its international status.

Chauner and the city believe it's important for Philadelphia to continue to host a major international race. "Cycling is one of the top two professional sports in the world and it is better for the sport and for the development of USA professionals to compete against a world class field", said Chauner. "Philadelphia, as an international city, deserves a world class event. Faced with the choice of going with a U.S. rider only USPRO Championship or staying with a strong international competition, we made the decision to stick with the 'USA verses the world' format and rename the race the Philadelphia International Championship."

Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell, agrees. "This is one of the most important and exciting annual sporting events in our state and the nation and a unique Philadelphia treasure," he said. "For 21 years, the race has supported our initiatives to promote the benefits of physical fitness, provide economic benefit to the region and foster civic pride for our citizens."

Threshold believes the race now known as the Philadelphia International Championship has been a major factor in the development of professional racing in the US over the last 20 years. When the first edition was held, there were seven US professional riders and one pro team. Now there are 130 pro riders on 12 teams. Eric Heiden won the first edition and the past winners list includes Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong.

The race was originally supported by the CoreStates Financial Corp, a regional bank. Over the years, the bank changed ownership through acquisitions and mergers from CoreStates to First Union and finally, Wachovia, a Charlotte, NC based bank that late this year announced that it would no longer sponsor the race.

Cauner and partner Jerry Casale are seeking a new title sponsor to follow in CoreStates' footsteps. "This event is unique", said Casale. "With a six month build-up, hundreds of thousands of spectators and a reputation as the one of the biggest special events in the country, this is to cycling what the Masters is to golf and a sponsor's dream."

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