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Swindlehurst mourns Tour’s absence

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For Burke Swindlehurst, the news regarding the cancellation of the 2007 Tour of Utah was like a strike from a double-edged sword.

The professional cyclist — Swindlehurst rides with the Toyota-United team — circled the first week of July long ago, hoping to make a strong showing in his home-state race.

Now, however, Swindlehurst and fellow Utah pro cyclist Jeff Louder will not have a chance to repeat the top-five finishes they enjoyed during the 2006 Tour of Utah.

"It's not the greatest news in the world," Swindlehurst said. "It's something I really didn't want to hear."

Not only is the Cedar City native and Salt Lake resident a seasoned pro cyclist, Swindlehurst was a member of the Tour of Utah board of directors. He knew intimately how hard it has been to secure the funding needed to make the race go. An estimated $1.5 million was announced as the hopeful budget when ownership switched from Three Peaks Productions and the Preston brothers to Utah Cycling Partnership, LLC — a non-profit company under the Larry Miller business umbrella.

"It's just a fact that we were behind the eight ball with a deadline we had set for having enough sponsorship funds to run the race in the professional manner that we needed to do it," Swindlehurst said. "I'd rather see it postponed and come back in 2008 stronger and more prepared for the long term than to not be able to hold the race the right way this year and risk having the race be less than it should be."

Former Salt Lake City mayor Ted Wilson was named the race's executive director in December, but he resigned only three months later after failing to boost the event's bottom line.

"The transition (of ownership) didn't take place until December. By that time, the money most businesses set aside to sponsor things like this is all gone," Swindlehurst said. "They set their budgets in September and October, and we were just too late this year."

Chip Smith, one of the race's promoters and sponsors with SOAR Communications, also said the timing hurt the race.

"When the race switched, we knew it was going to be tough to get everything together," he said. "We tried, but just couldn't get it done."

The Tour of Utah Web site is still up and running, proclaiming the race as "America's Toughest Tour." It will be at least another year, though, before the Beehive State will see a peloton grinding out the miles like it did last August.

"As a racer, I'm extremely disappointed. This was the event that I've planned for all year. It's what I've trained for," Swindlehurst said. "Winning the event was at the top of my goals this year."

With about 15 months to get everything in order for 2008, Tour of Utah officials are confident the race will be held again.

"We need to get an earlier start," Tour chairman of the board Greg Miller said when announcing the cancellation of the 2007 stage race, "in order to time our fund-raising efforts with annual corporate budget cycles."

With his ultimate goal unreachable, Swindlehurst said he will now focus on other domestic races, such as the Tour de Georgia, which begins on April 16, while hoping for the best next year.

E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com