Richest International Espoir Stage Race to take place in United States

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28.01.2008/ The Dutch Elite-class Global Cycling Team is the first international team invited to participate in the June 2008 American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania, presented by Highmark Healthy High 5. The six-day stage race from June 24 to 29 is the world's richest cycling race for elite international cyclists under age 25, featuring $150,000 in prize money.

Race sponsors and a delegation of business, civic and government leaders from Pittsburgh , Pa. , including Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, extended the invitation today at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam . Considered to be among the world's best development teams of young cyclists, the Dutch squad now begins the qualifying process to name its team of six riders who will compete in the Tour of Pennsylvania.

The 450-mile Tour of Pennsylvania begins in Philadelphia and ends in Pittsburgh , where the grand finale will be part of Pittsburgh 250, a yearlong celebration of the 250 th anniversary of the naming of Pittsburgh .

The UCI and USA Cycling have sanctioned the race, which is expected to draw 10 international and 10 U.S. teams of six riders each, for a field of 120 racers. More than 40 international teams, from countries including Great Britain , Italy , France , Belgium , Holland , Canada and Mexico , have expressed interest in receiving an invitation to compete. The tour is expected to include several cyclists who may participate in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games and the Tour de France .

"The route's combination of rolling hills, city streets, and steep, mountainous climbs, makes it the ideal setting for a race," said race organizer David Chauner, Olympic cyclist and president of Pro Cycling Tour, one of the top U.S. race promotion companies in the United States . "It will truly test the abilities of every rider on the tour."

Global Cycling Team director Aike Visbeek and Luke Ravenstahl, mayor of Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh delegation that extended the invitation is in Amsterdam as part of a three-week European tour that is a partnership between the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which is promoting Southwestern Pennsylvania to European business leaders as part of its 250 th anniversary celebration.

The PSO's upcoming Jan. 29 performance in Amsterdam follows the Stedelijk Museum 's Andy Warhol exhibition, which closed Jan. 13. The Andy Warhol Museum is located in Pittsburgh , the hometown of the famous pop artist.

"As one of the top countries in the world for cycling, Amsterdam is a natural choice to extend the first international invitation to race in the Tour of PA,” said Mike Langley, chief executive officer of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development." Amsterdam is also an established cultural center. These same attributes are beginning to converge in Pittsburgh . Compared to all the other cities in Europe that the PSO is visiting on this trip, Amsterdam is the best match for what Pittsburgh is today and where it is heading in the future.

"With the finish line in Pittsburgh , the Tour of PA also provides an excellent look at Pittsburgh , which has been named American's Most Livable City because of its low cost of living, multiple recreational and cultural opportunities, its many universities and its diverse job opportunities."

Organizers of The American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania, presented by Highmark Healthy High 5, are ramping up operations for this unprecedented six-day stage race in June 2008 and are now in the process of team selection. The Dutch Elite-class Global Cycling Team is the first international team invited to participate in the June 2008 American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania, presented by Highmark Healthy High 5.

The international tour will begin with a Prologue Time Trial in Philadelphia and will cover approximately 500 miles over six days (June 24-29), with finish-line events in Philadelphia, Carlisle, Bedford and Latrobe and a race grand finale in Pittsburgh to help celebrate the southwestern Pennsylvania region’s 250th anniversary.

A total of $150,000 will be awarded in stage prizes, overall general classification and special competitions – the world’s largest-ever prize list for U-25 riders.
"We’re delighted that this race will build on cycling’s strong traditions by showcasing the sport’s up and coming talent," said Jerry Casale, chief operating officer of Pro Cycling Tour, LLC, the company that is organizing the race, along with ISM-USA and Pittsburgh 250. "In fact, we’re inviting at least 20 six-rider teams of the world’s best young cyclists in the espoir class, including some who may participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and Tour de France."

The Tour of Pennsylvania route will roughly follow the historic Forbes Road (along U.S. 30), which was created in 1758 when British General John Forbes and Colonel George Washington forged a trail through the challenging terrain of the Allegheny Mountains to the Forks of the Ohio during the French and Indian War, founding Bedford, Ligonier and Pittsburgh along the way. "The route’s combination of challenging terrain and the Pittsburgh circuits make it the ideal format for a stage race," said Casale.

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