The bids are in and the waiting begins for the cities across Colorado vying for a spot in the inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge in 2011.
Race organizers will announce route details perhaps as soon as next week’s Interbike trade show in Las Vegas. But chats with a few Colorado municipal and tourism officials reveals some picture of the potential route.
First, what will we not see along the Quiznos route in 2011? Western Slope cities Grand Junction and Montrose did not file proposals with Medalist Sports to host a stage and as a result, a reprisal of the Coors Classic’s Tour of the Moon race in the Colorado National Monument appears to be at least another year away.
Also missing from the contest are northern Front Range communities Fort Collins and Estes Park. Without Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the race will most likely stay away from the park and the monstrous Trail Ridge Road climb. According to sources in Fort Collins, local organizers decided to focus on the upcoming U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross New Belgium Cup and wait a year to see how the new Quiznos event pans out.
That said, what do we know about the proposals that have come in from around the state?
Last things first: Denver to host finale
The capital city appears to be a lock for the finish of the final stage. Assuming the state’s executive and legislative atmosphere remains welcoming to the event, the final stage will likely finish near the State Capitol where Gov. Bill Ritter and Lance Armstrong announced the birth of the event in August.
Here’s a rundown of communities that have filed proposals and the potential routes they have discussed with Medalist Sports’ Jim Birrell and Kelly Greene.
Armstrong is a part-time resident in the up-scale resort town. The Coors Classic made a habit of visiting Aspen as well and though we are unlikely to see a reprisal of the downtown criterium, Aspen does appear to have an inside line on hosting at least one stage.
“We’re shooting for the moon, for a finish and a start,” said city community relations staffer Sally Spaulding, who was confident, but far from certain that Aspen would be selected for the 2011 event. “We’re asking for everything based on Medalist’s recommendation.”
According to Spaulding, the Aspen local organizing committee submitted a number of route recommendations with their proposal, including a circuit race that would include the climb to Snowmass Village from the Roaring Fork Valley and a road race that would make use of Independence Pass. A route over McClure Pass through Paonia does not appear to be on the table after Grand Junction and nearby Delta reportedly did not submit bids.
“We’re hopeful that we’re chosen, but it’s not a slam dunk,” Spaulding said.
A key figure in the Coors Classic and American cycling in general, Boulder’s LOC was in the final steps of pulling their proposal together on Friday. According to Andrew Shoemaker, the Boulder group is aiming for a stage that would start and finish in the city center and anchor a festival atmosphere.
“We have so many good routes to choose from and it depends on what the race wants,” Shoemaker responded when asked about potential routes. The committee recommended a bevy of options to Medalist, including circuit races on the classic Morgul Bismarck loop south of town or any one of the climbs to the Peak-to-Peak Highway west of the city.
“There is a lot of cycling history here and a lot of people that can be part of the event,” said Shoemaker. “It is Boulder. Boulder loves cycling and cycling loves Boulder. It would be tremendous for this town to have a race.”
Shoemaker did mention a concern that most of the potential host communities raised during the proposal process: how to make the event work financially in the short term. “The question is how to make this race in its first year economically feasible,” he said. According to sources in Fort Collins, hosting the event comes with a price tag in the $150,000 range and that was too significant for Fort Collins to pursue a stage in year one.
When Medalist invited the town of Breckenridge to submit a bid for the 2011 race, staff pulled together a committee that, like most cities, included a good representation of lodging, restaurant, government and cycling leaders. The Breckenridge LOC submitted its bid Friday. Unlike many communities, Breckenridge did not propose routes, according to the city’s director of communications Kim DiLallo.
“The president of our Chamber of Commerce, John McMahon, has worked with Medalist at the Amgen Tour of California,” said DiLallo. “They said not to focus on routes, but on what the community has to offer.”
DiLallo did confirm that the LOC would prefer a stage finish or time trial. Potential routes into town include a climb from South Park over Hoosier Pass or a long ascent from the Front Range. A time trial would most likely make use of Highway 9 between the town center and nearby Dillon Reservoir.
“Breckenridge is a community that loves its events. One of our marketing strategies, which we’ve been growing for the last four to five years, is to put Breck’ on the map for cycling,” said DiLallo. “We really feel this would be one of the objectives in that effort.”
Chris Carmichael is spearheading the effort to attract a Quiznos stage to Colorado Springs. According to reports in The Gazette, the city that is home to USA Cycling is focused on attracting a prologue to the downtown area.
“The idea is to have the finish downtown,” Carmichael told the local paper.
A trip to the summit of nearby Pikes Peak, at more than 14,000 feet, is unlikely. Colorado Springs faces competition for the prologue, most notably from Durango in the Four Corners region in southwest Colorado.
The home of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, Crested Butte filed a 71-page proposal Friday, three days after Medalist managing partner Jim Birrell made his second site visit to the area in two weeks. The Crested Butte group recommended seven routes, including a circuit race between the town and the nearby ski area, a time trial up the gradually ascending Highway 135 from Gunnison and a road stage connecting with Salida via the northern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at Poncha Pass and Saguache.
The most intriguing — and rumored — potential route in or out of Crested Butte is a 130-mile trek over Cottonwood and Independence Passes to Aspen. This stage would climb more than 8,300 feet – all above 8,000 feet elevation – on two roads atop the Continental Divide that are closed for winter. The road over Cottonwood Pass includes a 10-mile stretch of gravel between Taylor Park Reservoir and the summit and the stage would feature more than 30 miles of high-altitude climbing.
David Ochs said that the local committee, which has taken in approximately $35,000 for the bid without beginning true fundraising efforts, is “ideally hoping for a Mt. Crested Butte finish,” atop the three-mile climb of Gothic Road. “I’ve never seen this much energy in Crested Butte for one cause,” said Ochs. “Crested Butte is cycling. We love it something fierce.”
The southwest town of Durango, home to collegiate cycling powerhouse Fort Lewis College and the first world mountain bike championships in 1990, is aiming for a prologue and stage start with their bid. According to Iron Horse Bicycle Classic promoter Gaige Sippy, the LOC recommended two downtown-focused prologue courses and worked with former USPro champ Chris Wherry to design a route over Lizard Head Pass into Telluride.
“We squeezed (Medalist) as hard as we could and offered many suggestions,” Sippy said of a recent site visit with Birrell and Greene. “We feel that we’ve done it before, from the sense of a lot of bike racing has gone on here. This year is the 40th Iron Horse and we’ve hosted 14 national championships. To do a tour of Colorado and miss Durango would not be a full tour of cycling history in the state.”
Sippy recently drove the Lizard Head Pass route with Birrell and felt the Medalist managing partners was impressed by the community and governmental support for the bid. “We have every resource available from the city and the state patrol,” Sippy said. “But they hold their cards close to their chest.”
According to Sippy, the Durango group worked closely with the Telluride LOC in preparing its bid for the road stage, which would most likely end in a bunch finish – something the Medalist staff would likely prefer early in the race. “One of our proposals is that we feel the overall event start should happen in Durango,” said Sippy.
The Golden committee filed their proposal Thursday morning. According to Mark Heller of the city’s Urban Renewal Authority, a number of discussions with Medalist staff led him to believe the city would be in the running for a stage start. “They said, ‘Don’t worry about going from Golden into the mountains,’” said Heller, who believes the city – and its famous “Welcome to Golden” sign, seen in the Coors Classic and American Fliers – is under consideration for the beginning of the final stage.
The group did recommend a mountain route over the climbs of Lookout Mountain, Squaw Pass and Berthoud Pass, but Heller did not hold much hope for that proposal to bear fruit. The Golden LOC also submitted three routes leading into Denver that each focused on the foothills west of town and included the Lookout Mountain climb, which Governor Ritter sometimes includes on a twice-a-week group ride with his cycling club. “They all start in downtown Golden under the arch,” said Heller.
Golden is likely the only community to produce a video promoting its bid:
According to David Ochs of the Crested Butte LOC, his group has worked hand-in-hand with a Gunnison contingent led by Dave Wiens and John Masters. Any proposal that includes Crested Butte appears to be tied with Gunnison and according to sources, the latter would fill a role as a start town to the Crested Butte TT, a road stage to Aspen via Cottonwood and Independence Passes, or an intermediate town en route to Crested Butte from Salida.
The Salida LOC filed a proposal late last week and is aiming for a stage start. “It’s a good way to get our feet wet,” said Monarch Ski Area marketing director Greg Ralph. “We’re thrilled by the chance and it’s something we couldn’t walk away from.”
Ralph’s fiancée and local visitor’s bureau staffer April Prout contacted Medalist in August and the group has been encouraged by the meetings they’ve had with the promoters since.
Working with the groups in Gunnison and Crested Butte, the Salida committee recommended routes that include a run through Saguache and the Sangre de Cristo mountains or the climb over Monarch Pass to Crested Butte. Two additional options the Salida group included in their bid were a trip down Highway 50 to Colorado Springs and the epic climb of 12,000-foot-plus Independence Pass into Aspen. The latter is rumored to be a top pick for the race organizers, though they would not comment on record.
Steamboat Springs fancies itself “Bike Town USA” and the local committee filed its proposal last week. According to organizer Pat West, the Steamboat group is “open to anything,” and laid out a number of options for road stages finishing in town from Vail, Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Winter Park, as well as a circuit used for a local stage race.
West said that fellow LOC member Jim Schneider was told by Medalist staff to submit a basic overview of potential routes, not specific details. “They seemed really positive about it,” he said of the Medalist response to a recent site visit.
West did mention that the financial requirements for hosting a stage were cause of hesitation in the committee, but that the benefits of hosting an international sporting event — something Steamboat knows a lot about — outweigh the costs. “Medalist will help with sponsorship acquisitions if it fits with their plans,” said West. “Our resume is in; we’re waiting for a counter-offer.”
The Telluride LOC worked with the Durango group to craft the stage over Lizard Head Pass and according to a report in the Telluride News, the town is also angling for the stage’s start or finish. Mayor Stu Fraser told the paper that “We need to keep on the path that we’re going down right now… What (Medalist) really wanted was to have a beautiful ride … And Durango and (Telluride) have been trying to get them to come to the Four Corners area.”
Head of the local tourism board Scott McQuade told the News that “watching the final three-mile sprint coming across the Valley Floor to end at the Sheridan would be pretty spectacular … But even for a start to see people lined up back into the canyon would be pretty spectacular.”
According to the Telluride News story, the biggest challenge for Telluride — and other small mountain communities — is fulfilling the race’s lodging needs. “We’re hopeful that the lodging community will rally around this and provide the rooms,” McQuade said. “I think it would be great. … I can’t see any pitfalls in doing it.”
The leg-breaking Vail criterium from the Coors Classic is all but dead, but the local committee in the ski area town filed a proposal Friday that included a trip back to the East Vail time trial course.
“We’re supportive of any number of options on any number of days,” said Mike Imhof of the Vail Valley Foundation. The Vail LOC recommended a number of options to Medalist, including the 10-mile, 1,400-vertical-foot time trial course and the Copper Triangle route used in the Davis Phinney Foundation, which includes climbs of Fremont and Vail Passes.
Birrell paid a visit Friday and Imhof was confident, though not certain that the Vail Valley would land a stage of the race. “It’s pretty easy to be hopeful. We’ve known the group for a long time and we think it’s a natural fit,” Imhof said. “We’re not a shoe-in.”
Executive Director Catherine Ross told VeloNews Wednesday that Winter Park submitting a proposal to host a stage. According to Ross, the local organizing committee brought together members of the community and representatives from Winter Park Resort to craft a bid for a stage start or finish.
“We’re open to anything and everything … Berthoud Pass, Trail Ridge Road,” Ross said. “The community is 100 percent behind the in-kind contributions required to host the race.”
Potential routes involving the resort town include a climb over 11,000 feet at Berthoud Pass or the high alpine of Rocky Mountain National Park on Trail Ridge Road. With Steamboat Springs in the running for a stage, a route over the mostly flat terrain of Grand County, finishing up the twin summits of Rabbit Ears Pass or the slog over Gore Pass, could also be in the works.
Editor’s Note: Story updated Sept. 16th with new information about the proposal from Winter Park/Fraser.