Colorado Pro Tour stop fails to lock in title sponsor
By Stephen Lloyd Wood, Special to VeloNews.com
After failing to lock in a title sponsor, the Colorado stop of the Pro Cycling Tour – Vail’s Rocky Mountain Classic – has been cancelled for 2004, though promoters hope to resurrect the event for next year.
The planned three-day, $1.6 million Labor Day weekend cycling event was to include a citizen’s ride from Denver and two pro races which had also secured an appearance commitment from U.S. Postal star Lance Armstrong.
But on Tuesday, promoters announced the cancellation of the event.
“We just couldn’t land that big sponsor,” Rick Chastain of Vail-based Legacy Sports Marketing told the Vail Daily. “It’s a shame.”
Chastain had been working with Pro Cycling Tour organizer Dave Chauner, president and chief executive officer of Pennsylvania-based Threshold Sports LLC. While Chastain and Chauner expressed optimism throughout the spring that they could bring the Pro Tour to Colorado Sept. 4-6 — even in landing a spot on the UCI calendar — their efforts appeared doomed as early as February, when they told Vail leaders they had yet to sign a title sponsor.
“But success is just around the corner,” Chauner said confidently at the time.
Local sponsors, in fact, were never in doubt. Eagle County, Vail Resorts, the Vail Recreation District, Beaver Creek Resort Company and Colorado Mountain Express had been lined up for “in-kind” commitments, and the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and Spa had agreed to be the official “host hotel” for up to 900 room-nights, the promoters said.
Other, secondary sponsors were to include Allsport, Speedplay and Mavic; the Clear Channel radio network was to have agreed to broadcast coverage; and the Denver Post had agreed to be the “official newspaper.”
Title sponsorships, however, proved elusive. Lee Caruthers, a Denver-based marketing specialist working with Threshold Sports, said in February he had “some verbal agreements” with 10 Denver-based companies that sell imported cars, beer, liquor, cable television, energy bars, air travel, carbonated beverages, bottled water, mutual funds and insurance. Nonetheless, as months passed by, the necessary contracts never materialized. Chastain ultimately had to admit he and Chauner got started too late.
“Typically, sales for an event of this size should have started in October or November,” Chastain said Tuesday.
Attracting top cyclists to the Rocky Mountain Classic also presented challenges. After all, the Vail race’s spot on the UCI calendar just weeks after the Tour de France in July presented major obstacles for teams with designs on other major European events — such as the Olympics in late-August, the Tour of Spain in September, the World Championships in October and several World Cup events. Even if the Vail race were to happen, cycling’s big professional teams likely would have fielded second-string squads.
Nevertheless, as early as 2002, Chastain said he hoped to attract Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service team; and this spring the Texan himself was reported to have said he would be traveling to Vail as part of his late-season U.S. tour.
Having Armstrong on board apparently still wasn’t enough, however, as the Rocky Mountain Classic failed to interest the national television companies, where exposure for title sponsors often is everything.
Chauner said Comcast and the Outdoor Life Network had expressed interest in producing a cable program, but he was unable to secure coverage by the major networks, such as ABC, CBS or NBC, of the Labor Day event.
“With presidential elections in November, so much of the (advertising) inventory is used by political campaigns,” Chauner explained. “And it’s a difficult time with fall sweeps. The networks are pushing everything they can for fall ratings.”
Despite the major setback of having to cancel the race this year — and the other inherent challenges — Chastain said Tuesday he’s optimistic the Pro Cycling Tour will visit Colorado someday. And if Armstrong is unavailable, “maybe a new star will emerge” with marquee status for a Rocky Mountain Classic in 2005, he said, suggesting that the race may turn to a rider like Tyler Hamilton for help instead.