For the first time in its seven-year history, the Tour DuPont international cycling race will not run through Maryland in 1995, race organizers announced yesterday.
The annual 11-stage, 12-day, 15-city event will begin April 26 with its traditional three-mile prologue from Wilmington, Del., and end May 7 with a 20-mile individual time trial in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina.
But after three years of running a stage the 115 miles between Port Deposit and Hagerstown, the race will bypass Maryland completely.
Instead, organizers will bring the race to South Carolina for the first time.
"[This was] a tough decision," said Michael Plant, president of Medalist Sports Inc., the organizer of the estimated 1,050-mile tour. "We have established a good relationship with Maryland and Hagerstown. . . . It was a very difficult decision."
Plant said there were a number of reasons for Maryland's exclusion.
"DuPont does a lot of business down south, and there are a lot of mountains down there to make the course challenging," he said. Throw all that into a hat and the fact that 40 cities . . . [wanted] to participate, we were only able to accommodate 15 cities."
The event will move from Wilmington to Fredericksburg, Va., where the cyclists will bike 92 miles to Richmond, Va.
The third stage is 131 miles to Lynchburg, Va., and from there a 138-mile ride to Blacksburg, Va., for the fourth stage.
The final eight stages include stops in the Roanoke Valley area of Virginia, Galax, Va., Charlotte, N.C., Greenville, S.C., Asheville, N.C., and North Wilkesboro, N.C., before the finish in the Piedmont Triad area in North Carolina.
Plant emphasized the possibility of the tour returning to Maryland in 1996.
"We will certainly go back and have discussions with Hagerstown," he said. "We are not closing the door on them, and we made that very clear in our talks last week.
"It was nothing they did wrong. [Hagerstown was] very disappointed. They obviously thought it was possibly something they did. But we had to make sure [that they knew] that it wasn't."
Plant said no cyclists had yet committed to the event.
Last year, Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia, who finished 36th in last month's Tour de France, bested reigning world road titlist Lance Armstrong of Austin, Texas, by 1 minute, 24 seconds to win the race.