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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Cyclists race in the Tour of Utah Stage 4 criterium in Park City on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010.

The premier cycling event in Utah just got bigger.

The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah was elevated by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) from a National Racing Calendar Event to one of the top three stage races for road cyclists in North America.

"It's really quite an honor to be able to organize and host a race of this caliber and level," Steve Miller, president of the Utah Cycling Partnership, which owns the Tour of Utah, said in a press release. "This is really big for Utah. Professional cycling provides a unique setting from which we can showcase our beautiful State. It's great for spectators. It's great for athletes and it's particularly great for tourism."

Known as "America's Toughest Stage Race" the Tour of Utah will be staged Aug. 9-14 this year. The event began in 2004 as a three-day race and was upgraded to a National Racing Calendar event by USA Cycling in 2008. Thanks to the guidance and sponsorship of the Miller Family, the race has grown every year.

"Thanks to the support and dedication of the Miller family, local sponsors and staff, The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah has very quickly grown into one of America's top stage races," said USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson. "Now, with its placement on the UCI calendar as a category 2.1 stage race, the Tour of Utah will join the ranks of the world's top cycling events and feature an international field with some of the best professional teams in cycling."

One of the distinguishing elements in the elevated status of the 2011 Tour of Utah is that organizers are not allowed to include amateur teams and athletes, but are permitted to invite teams and athletes from the sport's highest level, UCI World Tour, including UCI ProTeams, UCI Professional Continental and domestic Continental Teams.

Amateur teams and athletes can only take part in NRC events and lower-rated UCI events, where they are eligible for domestic racing points.

Miller thanked both fans and sponsors who've supported the tour since it's inception.

"We're very grateful to the fans and sponsors, without whom, this race simply would not be possible," said Miller, who got involved with the Tour in 2005 as a sponsor. "Whereas in years past we've been able to attract a handful of the world's best racers, this year the entire field will be the who's who of professional cyclists."