Top professional cyclists will compete for $300,000 in prizes in the 1,100-mile Tour DuPont event May 9-19 in the Middle Atlantic and Northeast, race organizers announced yesterday.

The announcement ended three months of speculation about whether the race would take place after professional cycling's international governing body, the Federation International de Cyclisme Professionale, put it on its calendar last August without a sponsor.

Mike Plant, Tour DuPont executive director, said the race will begin in Wilmington, Del., go south to Richmond, then northwest over the Blue Ridge Mountains before heading into Maryland and points northeast before returning south and concluding "in the Wilmington area."

"We're talking to officials in Washington and Northern Virginia about taking a stage to somewhere in metropolitan Washington," Plant said.

Putting the cost of the event at $5 million, Plant said the 10 cities involved will have to contribute "about $1 million in cash or services -- police protection to close the streets, hotels, meals. It's negotiable." He added he is negotiating with representatives of 20 cities.

Fourteen professional teams of seven riders each and four amateur squads will race for the $50,000 first prize. The $300,000 purse makes the race the richest ever in the United States and one of the richest in the world.

When the FICP included the event on its already-crowded international calendar, officials also awarded the race FICP points, which riders as well as teams compete for to determine world rankings. The points are considered the key to ensuring that the top riders, whose salaries often depend on their rankings, compete.

For the previous two years, Plant directed the Tour de Trump, an amateur event that also drew some of Europe's best professional riders and teams.

Tour de France director Jean-Marie LeBlanc, who watched the final days of the last Tour de Trump in New York City and Boston, attended yesterday's news conference. He said the Tour DuPont could be "one of the great events. After only two years, the United States has proved itself."

When Donald Trump, the real estate magnate who had been title sponsor of the Tour de Trump, ran into financial problems earlier this year, he pulled out of sponsorship. The DuPont Co, an international conglomerate that has sponsored amateur men's and women's cycling teams, recently signed to become title sponsor.