Cycling race steers clear of city Tour Du Pont date, Preakness plan collide

February 28, 1991|By Bill Glauber

This was supposed to be the year Baltimore emerged as an East Coast capital of American cycling.

The Tour Du Pont was coming to the Inner Harbor on May 11. The inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix was scheduled for Sept. 29.

But within the past week, officials representing the city and the race organizations apparently have backpedaled from one another.

And now, it appears Baltimore will not even be the host of one cycling race in 1991.

The Tour Du Pont, which raced through the city the past two years under the Tour de Trump label, apparently will be forced to make a detour around Baltimore.

City officials say the May 11 date conflicts with Preakness Week events. The horse race is May 18.

Plans for the Baltimore Grand Prix collapsed Tuesday when race organizer Serge Arsenault notified city officials that he was unable to secure adequate sponsorship funds to stage the race. Arsenault notified the city that he wants to hold the inaugural event in Baltimore in September 1992.

"These events are business deals," said Bill Gilmore, acting director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion. "They're private ventures. It's like any other deal going bad; they're a victim of circumstance. In the case of the Tour Du Pont, it's a conflict of dates. With the Grand Prix, they're a victim of too short a time line."

Baltimore was on the Tour Du Pont schedule released earlier this month by event organizers. But Gilmore said the city never signed a contract for the May 11 date. Baltimore was to be the finish for an 85-mile road race in the afternoon and the site for an evening timed criterium around the Inner Harbor.

"The May 11th date was tough from the very beginning," Gilmore said. "First of all, the police deployment is critical on a full street closure. On a race like that on a day like that it became impossible. It was too much of a good thing."

A Preakness celebration balloon race and a rare sports-car show at Rash Field conflicted with the cycling event.

"We definitely want to come through the area," said Steve Brunner, Tour Du Pont spokesman. "Baltimore certainly has a history with the tour. We may look at some other alternatives."

Gilmore said the temporary collapse of the Baltimore Grand Prix was a "letdown."

"We've been working on this for six months, and we've been gearing up," he said. "We have a signed contract with them to bring the race here in 1991."

The Baltimore Grand Prix was supposed to be part of the international World Cup cycling tour. But Arsenault said he will need more time -- and money -- to deal with logistics ranging from procuring teams to securing television and sponsorship contracts.

"Baltimore is our city, a World Cup city," Arsenault said. "But we don't want to be in Baltimore for one year and then pull the plug. We need at least 15 or 16 months to prepare. I just hope the city of Baltimore can wait one more year."

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