A major two- to three-day international bicycle race, possibly even a leg of the Tour de France, may be held next April across the Virginia countryside and ending in the Nation's Capital.
The proposed race would include many of the world's top cyclists, riding individually or as teams as in the 22-day, 2,200-mile Tour de France, one of Western Europe's most popular athletic events. This year's Tour de France ended Sunday in Paris.
The proposed American race is expected to be run on highways, parkways and local streets from Virginia's Tidewater up through Washington's Virginia suburbs, and finishing on Capitol Hill after a quick tour de Washington.
District, Virginia and National Park Service officials returned yesterday from a three-day trip to France, paid for by international promoters, to witness the end of the 69th Tour de France and to negotiate a miniature version here.
"No final agreement was reached but we're all very enthusiastic and it looks like they're going to put it together," said Manus (Jack) Fish, regional Park Service director, late yesterday.
"And, Lord, it was exciting, quite an event . . . it's brutal, one of the most grueling athletic events I've ever seen," said Fish after riding in one of the pace cars alongside cyclists in the race's last part.
Fish and other area officials are expected to meet shortly for further negotiations with officials of World Tour Cycling, a New York-Paris sports management firm jointly owned by the Tour de France corporation and Capital Sports, which managed the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid and did the U.S. Open tennis tournament for five years.
The firm also represents, outside Western Europe, Bernard Hinault, who has now won the Tour de France four of the last five years; the young Australian, Phil Anderson, who held the lead in much of the early part of this year's race and finished fifth; and Jonathan Boyer, who last year became the first American to compete in the tour. He placed 32nd last year and was 23rd of 125 riders on Sunday. Boyer told reporters recently, "I now want to race in my own country."
The proposed Washington race would be held as an annual event to coincide with the city's Cherry Blossom Festival in early April. It would precede the National Capital Open, the annual bike race around the Ellipse which attracts some of America's top riders.
Until automobiles took over America's roads in the 1920s, bike racing was a major sport here. Washington once had two velodromes and frequent bicycle parades down Pennsylvania Avenue. Biking and bike races have been enjoying a resurgence across the country, although with few long or stage races like the Tour de France.
One exception begins Aug. 4, when four of America's top long-distance cyclists leave Santa Monica, Calif., on a nearly nonstop, largely sleepless 2,982-mile race to New York City that is expected to set a 10-day transcontinental record.
The single-day stage races of the tour include days off and transportation between cities along the route in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Two of this year's stages required plane transfers. One of the initial plans for the American race under discussion called for having it in early July as an early leg of the tour, with an unusually long transfer.