Baltimore's growing passion for international bicycle racing will get a major boost next Sept. 29, when the city hosts the U.S. International Grand Prix.
The interest the U.S. Pro Cycling Championships generated here in the early 1980s and the audience the Tour de Trump has attracted the last two years have established the city as a hub for professional international racing.
"Mayor Kurt Schmoke issued a written invitation and we've accepted," said Oliver Martin, head of Cycling Management Group in Boynton Beach, Fla., the promoter of the race. "We're working out the final details now."
The race has been added to the international calendar for pro races, which means participants will receive points. It is an important aspect in attracting the world's best riders, such as three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, because points are used to determine how riders and teams are paid the following year.
The going rate is about $1,000 per point and some riders roll up 800 and 900 points in a season. Already, 18 of the world's top teams have committed to the Baltimore race.
"I went to the Montreal World Cup race," said Bill Gilmore, Baltimore's director of promotion who helped put the deal together. "I watched those cyclists race up Mount Royale from 10 a.m. until after 4 p.m. They did 14 laps on a course that was about 12-K (7.5 miles) and it was spectacular. Baltimore has never seen anything like that."
Martin will be in town next week to make site inspections and look at proposed courses and hotels, to determine headquarter sites and housing facilities for the teams.
Another major achievement for the one-day event here is it has been "almost assured" of World Cup status for 1992, by FICP president Heinzer Bruggen, who was in Montreal and was impressed by the Baltimore delegation. If sanctioned as a World Cup race, it will be the only World Cup race in the United States and only Baltimore and Montreal will have such events in North America.
"The agreement we have reached with Baltimore is a multi-year deal," said Martin. "We would like Baltimore to be host for the next 20 years.