Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and Colorado governor Bill Ritter announced more details on the Quiznos Pro Challenge, the new Colorado stage race slated for next fall. On Wednesday morning, Armstrong told a crowd outside Colorado’s state capitol that “in August 2011, you’ll be out here supporting the best riders in the world.”
Armstrong said specific details of the seven-day race, to be held August 22-28, have yet to be nailed down. The event could feature some of the highlights of the Coors Classic, the last major pro stage race to be held in Colorado. The Coors Classic ran for 10 years, ending in 1988.
Armstrong introduced Colorado resident Davis Phinney as the defending champion of the Coors Classic, and said he told him that “comebacks are harder than people think,” and that Phinney fired back, “but I have a son,” referring to two-time world champion and RadioShack stagiaire Taylor Phinney.
The legacy of the Coors Classic built the foundation for the new race, Armstrong said. “It’s the birth of an event, but also a rebirth of a historical event,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong and Ritter first met on the concept early last year, and anticipation in the cycling community has been building since.
“Colorado has some of the best geography in the world for bicycle racing,” Ritter said. “It has all the best makings of a professional stage race. We have this passion for cycling that exists in Colorado, unlike a lot of other places in the United States.”
He said the state would not be a direct contributor to the race, but that he would argue for the state tourism department to support it.
Michael Aisner, the director of the Coors Classic, was involved in the feasibility planning of the Quiznos Pro Challenge from early on. He said the emphasis of the race is going to be on the mountains. The race will either start or end in Denver, and other Colorado communities will begin submitting applications this week to host starts and finishes. USA Cycling and the UCI will sanction the event.
VeloNews reported Friday that Medalist Sports, the race infrastructure behind the Amgen Tour of California, will also be involved in the Colorado event.
Like the route details, it is too early to say which teams will race. But Medalist races traditionally have featured a mix of ProTour teams and top American squads.
As to his participation, Armstrong was noncommittal. “My days of top-level European pro cycling are certainly over,” Armstrong said, adding that he would like to do a few American races next year, such as the Quiznos Pro Challenge and the SRAM Tour of the Gila, but wasn’t sure whether he would be fit enough.
USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson also spoke at the capitol.
“The return of a major international stage race to Colorado is wonderful news, not only for the state of Colorado, but also for the continued development of American professional cycling,” Johnson said. “We would like to welcome Quiznos into the growing family of American corporations that have embraced our beautiful sport. USA Cycling is looking forward to working with the local organizers, state and community agencies, and sponsors to ensure the success of the inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge in 2011.”
“The Quiznos Pro Challenge is an exciting opportunity to bring the next generation of cycling to life,” said Quiznos Pro Challenge general manager Joe Moller. “We are looking at the race as an opportunity to introduce a whole new audience to pro cycling through all the technologies available to us today.”
More information about the race will be posted on Quiznos.com in coming months.
Following the event at the capitol, Armstrong led a group ride that began at the first Quiznos sandwich shop in downtown Denver.
Brian Holcombe contributed to this report.