ATLANTA — The Tour de Georgia canceled its 2009 race because of financial struggles, yet plans to return in 2010.
The seven-day race, billed as North America’s premier professional cycling event, could not find a title sponsor the last two years.
The loss of this year’s event is disappointing news for those locales that would have been host towns for the race, considering that the 2008 Tour de Georgia had an economic impact of nearly $39 million for the state.
Support for the Tour de Georgia declined following Lance Armstrong’s retirement in 2005. Armstrong’s recently announced comeback initially included a return to the Georgia event. But Armstrong later released a revised schedule that did not include it.
Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said the decision to cancel the 2009 race followed “an enormous response from our partners on ways we can strengthen the Tour for the future.”
Cagle, who serves as chairman of the race’s foundation, said organizers decided the event needs extra time to gain its footing.
“Our host cities want to have time to prepare tourism packages and our health providers are enthusiastic about developing plans to use the health and wellness expos to spread their message across the state,” Cagle said in a statement released on the race’s Web site.
A survey by North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega shows the 2008 Tour de Georgia bicycle race had a direct economic impact of $38.6 million in Georgia, up from $27 million in 2007 — a 40 percent increase.
The 2008 Tour featured two stops in Hall County, including a daylong time trial at Road Atlanta near Braselton.
Economic impact was determined using data collected by crowd intercept surveys at all start and finish venue locations.
While the attendance figures across the state for the 2008 Tour were down 20 percent from last year’s race — more than 400,000 this year as compared to 515,000 in 2007 and 500,000 in 2006 — spending was up significantly during the event.
Forty-one percent of spectators indicated they stayed more than one night during their visit to Georgia, specifically to watch the tour, according to the survey. Of those overnight visitors, 6 percent were international visitors (an overall increase of 5 percent from 2007).
The average overnight visitor spent $380 per day at the Tour, with 55 percent going to accommodations and transportation costs, according to the survey.
Cagle said the goal is to create more family oriented activities.
“This is a decision I feel is wise and one that will strengthen the Tour de Georgia for years to come,” Cagle said.
Board member Tom Saddlemire said 2009 will be used “to plan ahead and properly position” the event.
Saddlemire said the 2008 race raised commitments for more than $500,000 for cancer research — a cause that helped draw Armstrong, a cancer survivor.
“We believe that this unique and exciting event will endure,” Saddlemire said.
Times reporter Harris Blackwood contributed to this story.