TheToC is currently an eight-day race, but there's no reason why it can'tmeet the criteria and expand to a three week event as is therequirement for a Grand Tour.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

It goes without saying the Grand Tours have been a staple part of
cycling's progress and development in Europe for more than a century.

Riders,
teams, officials and sponsors consider the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de
France and the Vuelta Espagne as the big race of every year, but is it
time to spread cycling's wings and embrace a new market outside the
sport's traditional roots?

I'm thinking the Tour of California can fit the bill and become the "4th Grand Tour".

The
ToC is currently an eight-day race, but there's no reason why it can't
meet the criteria and expand to a three week event as is the
requirement for a Grand Tour.

I believe there is a genuine
need to take world cycling away from its traditional origins and a
wealthy US economy appears an obvious choice.

Let's face it,
the Tour and the Giro are the two races which hold most interest every
year - as for the Vuelta, I get the impression it struggles in terms of
attracting a crowd - whether it's on the side of the road or watching
on television.

In only its fourth year of existance, the ToC has enjoyed a metoric rise on the international stage.

So
much so it's even attracted interest from the ASO - the owners of the
Tour de France have made a huge investment and commitment to this race
and are have majority share ownership in a venture they hope will reap
similar rewards to those enjoyed in July ever year.

Professional cycling has come a long way since it was "exploited" by television in the late 1980s.

A
sport which once appealed exclusively to the Euros has finally been
accepted by a global audience, and part of the reason for that is the
arrival and success of non-European riders from Australia, USA, South
Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Union.

That was made
obvious at the Tour Down Under this year where many of the Europeans
commented that the hype, hysteria and fervour surrounding Australia's
great race was comparable to that of the Tour de France.

The quality of riders racing in Californa this year is top class.

The
field includes Carlos Sastre, Ivan Basso, Lance Armstrong and Floyd
Landis - all have either won or was first to cross the finish line in a
Grand Tour - all are using the event as valuable preparation for the
rest of the UCI pro-events still to come.

Add to this 17 Tour de France stage winners and 11 world champions and you have a race with credibility.

In
the near future, the ToC could well be the first stop of a "world Grand
Slam tour", similar to that of tennis which has four Grand Slam events
of its own when you consider the Australian Open, the French Open,
Wiimbledon and the US Open.

The ToC provides a course
tailor-made for a three week racer and the perfect tonic to satisfy
sprinters, time-trialists and mountain specialist.

Pehaps
moving the race from February to March might be the only consideration
given the early time of year to allow the world's best cyclists and
teams to be better prepared.

Make no mistake pro-cycling is now a player on a world sporting scale - it's time to reach out to a brand new market.