The Univest Grand Prix: A Brief History
The Univest Grand Prix rolls into its 14th year with a longer, 100-mile (160-km) racecourse that is the first in the nation to earn a dual UCI and National Racing Calendar certification. The UCI - the international governing body of bicycle racing - designates the Univest Grand Prix as a category 1.2 while the American NRC rates it a 1.HC - Highest Category.
Created for Univest Corporation by Sparta Cycling President John Eustice -- a former two-time U.S. national champion who competed in Europe -- and as a way to reach out to the communities surrounding Univest’s corporate hometown, Souderton, Pa., the Univest Grand Prix confronts riders with 100 miles of the roller coaster roads through Souderton, Telford and Franconia.
The new course, designed to enhance spectator enjoyment while making it even tougher for the international field, send the riders over 12 laps of a 6.5 mile (10.4Km) cloverleaf course before returning to Souderton for five more laps on a 4.5-mile (7Km) finishing circuit - including multiple climbs up the challenging Wile Avenue and N. Second Street hills.
The constant hills and numerous turns mean a long day in the saddle for the approximately 150 international cyclists expected for North America’s most prestigious Pro-Am event and even better day for race fans who now get to watch the competition unfold right in front of them.
Headliners in 2011 include recent Tour de L’Avenir runner-up David Boily and past Tour of Missouri stage winner Martin Gilbert (both of Team SpiderTech powered by C10) and Nature Valley Grand Prix champion and Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah stage winner Jesse Anthony. In all, more than 150 racers on two dozen teams will compete in two days of racing in the 14th edition of the event in Pennsylvania.
This year’s field continues a rich tradition of attracting present and future cycling talent while also setting a new standard with its dual UCI (1.2) and NRC (1.HC) classification for Saturday’s road race. Past Univest Grand Prix participants include 2011 Grand Tour stage winners Tyler Farrar (Tour de France), Juan José Haedo (Vuelta a España), 2005 world road champion Tom Boonen (runner-up as an amateur in 1999), and 2003 Under 23 world road race champion Sergey Lagutin.
In addition to the difficult course, the presence of top international teams from Italy, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Mexico and Canada give American racers the opportunity to test their mettle against the best in the world. The result has been some of the best and most exciting bike racing seen in North America.
The Univest Grand Prix began in 1998 as an event designed to be the great amateur event of North America. Riders from around the world were flown in specifically to test U.S. riders and raise the level of competition. Racers competed over a 60-mile road course that includes communities in both Montgomery and Bucks counties before finishing on a 40-mile circuit that brings added excitement to fans throughout the region.
In 2004, the Univest Grand Prix Doylestown Criterium was added to bring the Univest event to Bucks County and offer a full weekend festival of cycling. The community events that have made the Univest Grand Prix such a local favorite were also expanded and enhanced to put more emphasis on related family events encompassing the finish line at the Souderton race, and bring more attention to the Univest Cyclosportif 100K, a community fund-raiser that benefits Penn Foundation.
The Cyclosportif 100K, like the Grand Prix, is also modeled after a popular European event that gives recreational bicyclists the opportunity to pit themselves against the clock on a professional-grade race course.
The Univest Grand Prix experienced significant growth in 2006 with the addition of professional status to the race that year, which enabled promoters to draw top international professional and elite teams and American pro racers, including many former amateurs who excelled at the Univest Grand Prix in past years. The Univest Grand Prix became known as America’s Pro Classic and one of six American race calendar events sanctioned by the UCI -- (Union Cycliste International) the international cycling federation -- encouraging major international teams such as Garmin Chipolte and increasing the standing and prestige of the event.
Complementing that honor was the introduction of live television coverage for the Univest Grand Prix courtesy of WFMZ Channel 69 in Allentown, which broadcasts the race and simulcasts it on www.wfmz.com for the worldwide cycling audience.
The Univest Grand Prix also broadened the community involvement in the event by adding childrens’ races and activities to the fun. An expanded 1.5 mile course encircles the Doylestown Arts Festival to provide additional entertainment and appeal to the 20,000 attendees of both events.
In 2009, while many American bike races were feeling the economic pinch and watching sponsors disappear, the Univest Grand Prix continued to evolve and actually became a three county race - Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery - and a full-fledged stage race with the addition of the tough and technical Univest Grand Prix team time trial in Allentown, Pa.
In 2010 the race returned to its original two-day format and the road race course was revised for a more American style of racing that took it through the heart of the three communities of Souderton, Telford and Franconia and added a greatly enhanced spectator appeal.
More About Univest Corporation, Title Sponsor of the Race
Headquartered in Souderton, Pa., Univest Corporation of Pennsylvania and its subsidiaries serve the financial needs of residents, businesses, and nonprofit organizations in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Lehigh counties. Univest Bank and Trust Co., member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender, offers customers 32 financial service centers, 12 retirement financial services centers, and 39 ATM locations throughout the region, and is the parent company of Univest Capital, Inc., a small ticket commercial finance business; Univest Insurance, Inc., an independent insurance agency headquartered in Lansdale, Pa., which serves commercial and personal customers; and Univest Investments, Inc., Member FINRA and SIPC, a full-service broker-dealer and investment advisory firm. For more information on Univest Corporation of Pennsylvania and its subsidiaries, please visit www.univest.net.
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