Argentina wants the equivalent of the Tour de France in America. The governor of San Luis, Claudio Javier Poggi, said that his province is creating its own mark with the Tour de San Luis.
"How long did it take the Tour de France to become the Tour de France? Or the Giro d'Italia to become the Giro d'Italia? Years of hard work," the Poggi told Cycling Weekly and journalists at his office. "Our goal is to have the Tour de France in America, a race that means as much to South Americans as the Tour does to the world."
The Tour de San Luis began seven years ago in 2007. The former governor, Alberto Rodríguez Saá found inspiration for the race after a chance sighting of the 2006 Tour de France when working in Paris.
Poggi, who took over the San Luis provincial government three years ago, shares Saá's vision. The government funds the race. It helped advance it from 2.2- to 2.1 and brought in the stars.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar), second in the Tour de France to Chris Froome (Sky), won the mountain stage yesterday. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) race in the central province, as well.
"We want to keep this race as it is, 2.1," Giovanni Lombardi said. "We need to be able to keep inviting national teams, like Cuba, and local third division teams to help cycling in America grow."
Former Italian professional Lombardi coached Argentina's track team. Saá contacted him in 2006 after seeing the Tour to create a bridge to the European teams.
Poggi and Lombardi balance those top teams with American teams. Cuba, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and the USA sent squads who race alongside 12 of the 18 first division, WorldTour teams.
"You can see, the big professionals like to start their seasons here," Poggi said. "I don't know about the rest of Argentina, but look what the race has done for San Luis. Now we have our own third division team, Somos Todos. Buenos Aires, now created its own third team as well."
For Argentineans, the Tour de San Luis already feels like France's national tour. "It means everything to us," Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) said. "I'm already in Europe, but the Argentineans here are able to benefit from the Tour de San Luis. That's thanks to the government's dream."
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