Preakness threatens bike event

February 27, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

The Tour Du Pont bicycle race, which has stopped here for the last two years, is having trouble staying the course.

Bill Gilmore, director of the Baltimore office of promotion, said yesterday the city cannot accommodate the Tour on the designated date of May 11 because of Preakness-related festivities. But there still are some options, Gilmore said tour officials had told him.

"At this point it is disappointing," Gilmore said. "We feel we have a two-year investment in the Tour, and the criterion we've had scheduled here is a very good event."

Steve Brunner, spokesman for Medalist Sports Inc., the promoter of the event, said the organization still hasn't counted out Baltimore.

"Though the door is closing, we're regrouping," he said. "We're hoping within the next week to come up with some creative alternatives. Certainly our interest is in the state of Maryland and our intent is to be in the Baltimore market."

Mike Marqua, director of the state office of promotions, is working with the Tour to find an alternative site within the state. Brunner said Towson had turned down their inquiry.

The good news for the Tour Du Pont is that for the first time in its three years, ESPN will run a half-hour show nightly on each day's events except on Sundays, when CBS will cover the race.

Already 88 countries have signed up to carry the television package; that's 49 more than last year and 27 more than carried the Super Bowl.

Part of the reason for the Tour's appeal is it will have its strongest field ever, including Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and runner-up Eric Breukink. All together, 126 riders will compete among 14 pro teams and four amateur teams.

Initially, the date here was to be May 4. However, when Tour Du Pont, formerly Tour de Trump, received the FICP pro sanctioning on the international calendar, it was forced to change its race dates.

When Medalist Sports Inc. announced its schedule Feb. 5, it included Baltimore as the site of the criterion May 11. But while May 4 had a chance of working here, May 11 would put the bike race right in the middle of the Inner Harbor at the start of the Preakness Week.

"We have the 10th annual Preakness parade, the balloon race, the Concours de Elegance and the Pimlico Special that day," said Gilmore. "The city just can't accommodate another event downtown."

"It's an event that takes 11 months to put together and because we didn't sign Du Pont as the sponsor until November, it has put us behind the eight ball," Brunner said. "It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, but we're getting there."

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