New details emerge on Colorado, Virginia stage races
Cycling fans in Colorado and Virginia could see pro racing return to their respective states in 2017 in the form of two four-day stage races that are owned and operated by the same company.
The company, called RPM Events Group LLC, says it has organized eight private investors to fund the entire project. The ownership group includes Colorado’s Gart family, international cable TV and broadband company Liberty Global, Denver businessman David Koff, and Ben Walton, a grandchild of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.
Koff, who is also the CEO for RPM Events Group, pegged the total budget for the project in the mid seven figures.
“The people we’ve brought in are patient with their money and want to treat [the races] like a community asset and a sustainable business,” Koff said. “This is for the benefit of the communities.”
The group did not provide the name of their new races. Earlier this year, a draft of the 2017 UCI America Tour listed the name “Tour of Colorado” running from August 14-20.
The ownership structure represents an important stepping stone for the races. All major bicycle races in the U.S. lose money, and require ownership to cover costs. Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge recently ceased operations after an unsuccessful hunt for a new ownership group to replace its former owners, Rick and Rich Schaden.
Tim Miller, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, said the project’s overall budget will be between that of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which cost approximately $10 million each year to organize, and the Tour of Utah, which race chairman Steve Miller recently pegged in the $3.5 million range. The investor group is being led by Colorado’s Gart family, which owned and operated a chain of successful sporting goods stores.
Ken Gart, the chairman of the RPM Events Group LLC, said the company’s goal is to build an “innovative new model” that will help the two events survive cycling’s infamously rocky business climate. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which was owned by the Colorado-based Schaden family, lost more than $20 million over its five editions.
The list of dead American UCI stage races includes the Tour de Georgia, Tour of Missouri, and Coors Classic.
“We want to make sure this race is going to be around,” Gart said. “We’re trying to take the foundation from the USA Pro Challenge and [2015 Richmond UCI World Championships] and come up with a new approach.”
The group’s model revolves around a hub-and-spoke format, wherein one city in each state hosts the start/finish line for the majority of the stages. In theory, that model cuts down on soaring costs for road closures and transporting equipment and personnel. The group declined to divulge which cities in Colorado and Virginia will be the hubs for the respective stage races.
According to Miller, who organized the 2015 UCI world championships in Richmond, Virginia, both races will feature cycling festivals, mass-participant cycling events, live music and a party atmosphere. The goal is to hold multiple stages in the late afternoon or evening, to attract bigger crowds.
Like other races, however, the two events will look to sponsorship as a way to generate revenue.
Miller said the group has submitted its plans to the UCI, and is now awaiting confirmation from the sport’s governing body. He declined to give firm dates for the proposed race, other than to say the two races will be held “fairly close to one another.”
Koff, who joins the group after a successful career in the cable TV business, said the company hopes to reach a fan demographic outside of just hardcore cycling fans.
“We are trying to create races that have a broader entertainment experience,” Koff said.