Many armchair athletes are beginning to stretch their winter-weary bones as they prepare for summer and all the sporting activities that accompany it. But the United States Air Force Academy’s cycling team didn’t stop working out during the cold months and will showcase their efforts in a national championship set to take place in Colorado Springs next month.
This will be the second time the National Collegiate Road Cycling Championships have been hosted in the Pikes Peak region. The last time was in 1989 when Colorado College, also a member of the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference, hosted the prestigious event.
“It not only brings in the riders and their coaches, but also their family and friends,” said Summer Hicks, a spokeswoman with USA Cycling. “Colorado Springs is a good cycling community. We’re hoping for a really good turnout.”
The United States Air Force Academy Cycling Team and USA Cycling are expecting about 300 participants along with about 100 support staff from the three-state member colleges and universities in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. Many colleges and universities continue to qualify for the championships and some may not know they have qualified for the national event until a week before the competition, said Hicks. Along with the Air Force Academy, Colorado College will partake in the games as well as CU Boulder, Denver University, Fort Lewis College, the University of New Mexico and the University of Wyoming.
The AFA was fronted about $37,000 from cadet extracurricular activities’ funds, and proceeds from the event will repay the coffer. Capt. Jay Lowell, who is coordinating the event, expects to break even after paying for medical support, waste disposal, printing costs, marketing and other operational costs. The cost to cyclists is $80 for all events and support staff pay $30 each.
Lowell expects a minimum of 300 room nights at the Wyndham Hotel as well as a lot of hungry people. He’s not sure how it will directly affect restaurants in the area since this is the first time the USAFA has hosted this national event.
“These guys eat. They eat about six, seven, eight thousand calories –a day. It will be like locusts descending on downtown to get food after they race,” said Lowell, adding that they usually train by riding about 300 miles per week.
Comprising three races over a three-day period, the championship’s first race begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 19 with the women’s technical downtown criterion. This 50-minute race is followed at 2:30 p.m. by the men’s 70-minute race.
The one-mile-long, eight-corner downtown course will begin on Cascade Ave. at Cucharras Street. Riders will head south and go west on Vermijo Ave, then south on Sahwatch Street, and west on Costilla Street. At Sierra Madre Street, they head north to Cucharras Street where they turn right, then left at Sahwatch Street. Riders will travel east on Colorado Avenue until they reach Cascade Avenue, After heading south, they end where the race began.
The road race is held the next day at the Air Force Academy. Women lead the pack at 11 a.m. with five laps on the 9.6-mile course for a total of 47.5 miles. The men follow at 1:45 p.m. with seven laps for a total of 66.5 miles. Riders will combat a grade peak of 11 percent and about 900 feet of climbing per lap. The race begins at the intersection of Stadium and Academy boulevards and moves counterclockwise past the north gate at the USAFA, the cadet area and Interior Boulevard.
An awards banquet featuring cycling guru Chris Carmichael begins at 6 p.m. that evening at the Wyndham Hotel. Carmichael’s company, Carmichael Training Systems, developed an efficient bicycling training system called Train Right that maximizes workout times and minimizes injuries. Among a number of clients, his most famous is Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France twice. Admission to the banquet is $20 and is open only to cyclists and support team members.
Team time trials, based on team standings, begin Monday, May 21 at 9 a.m. for the women and 9:30 a.m. for the men. It is held on a 16.9-kilometer (approximate 10.5-mile) course that begins and ends on Stadium Boulevard near the B52 bomber by the north gate. Riders peddle to the south gate, and then turn around and head back the way they came.
Descending on the Garden
The Colorado Grand Prix of Racing will hold its second of six legs on May 5 in one of the Springs’ most beautiful places – the Garden of the Gods.
The “Burger King Presents the 3rd Annual Garden of the Gods 5K’s” will kick of across from the visitor’s center at 30th Street on Gateway Road at 8 a.m. Race coordinators Carol and John O’Donnell expect a turnout of 700 to 750 runners compared with 620 runners last year. The year before that – the first year the Garden was included in the Grand Prix – about 400 runners participated.
The cost per runner is $17 before May 5 and $20 the day of the race, said John O’Donnell. All money raised will go toward operating costs such as insurance, barricades and police.
“Each race costs about $6,000 to produce,” he said. It takes about $7 to produce one shirt – given to each runner – and if the race brings in 700 runners, he expects the cost of T-shirts alone to be about $4,900. Any proceeds after the race will be reinvested in future races. The coffer’s balance last year at the 5K’s was about $300, which was donated to the Garden of the Gods advisory board with stipulations to be used to improve the Garden.
Burger King and Longs Drugs are the co-sponsors of this year’s event. Burger King donated $2,500 to cover all six events and both companies are advertising the race with posters in their locations around town. O’Donnell declined to disclose the amount of money Longs Drugs is donating, but said he preferred to focus on the importance of sponsorships and donations.
“The advent of co-sponsorship … is really a new venture in our town,” he said. “It’s a tough nut to crack. An important parcel of most corporations is to define where they want to give money back to the community and affect the community.”
The run will feature two races – the 5K and the 5-miler. Both begin across from the visitor’s center on Gateway Road and turn right at the T onto Juniper Way Loop. Runners stay on this road as it bends to the left and passes the main parking lot. When the road splits, 5K runners bear to the left and stay on Juniper Way Loop. Five-mile runners turn right onto Garden Drive until they reach Balanced Rock. At this point, they turn around and run back to Juniper Way Loop where they turn right and stay on the road until it ends where it began.