Tour of Lawrence canceled for 2017; race organizers plan improvements

photo by: John Young

Cyclists competing in the men's pro race speed around a corner during the Tour of Lawrence downtown criterium Sunday, June 28, 2015.

The Tour of Lawrence, the city’s largest cycling event, has been canceled for this year. Organizers say the event is taking a hiatus to improve the structure and location of the races that make up the tour.

“We’re listening to the riders, who are our customers, and also responding to trends in the cycling world,” said Bob Sanner of Lawrence Sports Corporation, which organizes the tour. “It’s a necessary move on our part. “

This year would have been the ninth year for the tour, which is one of the largest races in the state and one of the few open to professional cyclists. The tour includes three races, and typically draws hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators each summer.

Two years ago, roadway projects meant the tour had to change the location of one its popular races, which took riders over the hilly landscape of the University of Kansas campus. Sanner said construction continues to mean the tour is unable to offer the KU race this summer, and that as a result it is best to “sit out a year.”

“When we started the Tour of Lawrence eight years ago, our organizing group wanted to offer what we considered the best that Lawrence had to offer when it comes to race venues,” Sanner said. “One of those venues was our ability to offer a race on or near KU’s campus.”

The date of the event and the format of the races are also going to be changed, Sanner said. The three-day tour is typically held in July and includes three events for various categories of riders, but Sanner said it might take place earlier in the year when it returns. Last year, the tour included two long-distance races — held at Haskell Indian Nations University and downtown — and a 200-meter sprint on Vermont Street.

Based on feedback from cycling teams, Sanner said the plan is to eliminate the street sprints, and instead have two criteriums and a circuit — all long-distance races.

“We’re asking riders to come in from Dallas or Chicago, and what they would really enjoy and thoroughly support would be three solid days of racing, and the street sprint really didn’t satisfy that,” Sanner said.

Sanner said the hope is for the tour to return next year with the new format, and also bring back KU’s campus as one of the race venues.