If Colorado hasn’t already asserted its legacy as cycling’s spiritual home in the U.S., this weekend will see the debut of the Tour of Vail, the final stop on this year’s USA Crits Championship Series. Many eyes will be on a man not taking the start in Sunday’s criterium, however, as U.S. road champion Timmy Duggan takes part in the event to benefit his Just Go Harder Foundation.
Originally slated to debut last season, event organizers opted to hold off and put more effort into a 2012 launch for the Tour of Vail.
“Originally this was going to happen in 2011, but then it was decided to wait and do it right for this year but I don’t think we would be doing this if there weren’t people (here) now who were around for the Coors Classic and can remember all the great races that were in Vail at that time period,” said Dieter Drake, the event’s organizer and the man behind the Tour of the Battenkill in Upstate New York. “Vail was very impressed how the Tour of the Battenkill is presented and the growth of it and Vail was very interested in having something similar out there. Also, they had a stage of the USA Pro Challenge out there last year, and they loved that event and it was very successful, but they wanted something that’s more predictable and more sustainable over time.”
Over three days, the Tour of Vail will feature a 10km prologue-style time trial through the streets of Vail that’s open to amateur, elite, and professional riders, a 100km gran fondo that includes both the Fremont and Tennessee Passes, as well as Sunday’s USA Crits men’s and women’s finals on a 1km, four-turn course over cobbled roads.
The connection between the Pro Challenge and the new event goes further than just the Town of Vail. Both the TT and criterium will take place on the same roads that the pro peloton saw while participating in last year’s individual time trial won by Levi Leipheimer.
“We’re going through Solaris Plaza… the exact same spot. We wanted to build in something that’s interesting and they’re more like pavers than real cobblestones, but any events that we do have that kind of a flavor where things are more challenging or epic and different. It’s 1km around and it chokes down to six or seven meters wide at one point, so it’s tight, but very exciting.”
And while none of the men who participated in the Pro Challenge will be fighting for cornering position during the criterium, at least one WorldTour rider will be in attendance this weekend in Vail in Liquigas-Cannondale’s Timmy Duggan.
“I contacted the organizers because it looked like it could be a pretty cool event,” said Duggan, who will take part in the Bicycling Vail Challenge gran fondo. “And then we came up with a scenario where they could give my foundation a portion of the proceeds to my foundation. So that was a super opportunity and I thought it was just a great opportunity to do an iconic fall ride in Colorado with the Aspens and the fall colors and meet a bunch of cool people.
Duggan’s Just Go Harder Foundation, which he started with former teammate Ian MacGregor, has raised money for grassroots skiing and cycling programs for young people looking to get involved in either sport.
“Both those sports can be pretty cost prohibitive, and sometimes it takes a lot of money to get your foot in the door,” said Duggan. “And with this scholarship fund we want to remove that barrier for kids who couldn’t afford it otherwise, so I’m really looking forward to taking part in this.”
In the past two years alone, Just Go Harder has doled out scholarship to youngsters in the Colorado High School Mountain Bike League, the Eldora Mountain Ski Club, the Boulder Valley Middle School Cyclocross Program, and Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures. Apart from the money he will raise, Duggan, who lives in Nederland, Colorado, is looking forward to enjoying time in the saddle in his home mountains.
“Worlds was my last race and since I’ve been riding without much of a break since January, I’m definitely looking to just riding a bike for fun for once,” he said.
With several hotly contested titles still up for grabs in the USA Crits Series competition — including the team and lap leader classifications — Duggan is content to be on the non-racing side of the barriers sipping beer and enjoying time off before he joins his new squad, SpiderTech-C10 for its first training camp.
As an organizer, Drake has no doubt that the Tour of Vail will be tremendously well received locally and is already thinking ahead towards future editions of the event.
“I’ve already applied for a mid-August date and I’ve been told it’s on the calendar.”
He feels the ski area town’s commitment to the sport is undisputed.
“It’s a part of Vail and it’s a part of Colorado and they absolutely want to recapture that,” said Drake. “It’s still fresh in their memory and people always tell me about those courses. I don’t think it’s physically possible (for us to recreate those rides exactly) because the roads have changed, but everybody in Vail definitely wants to recapture some of that history.”