Pro cycling in Colo. Springs an unsure bet

Colorado Springs is a mecca for cyclists but no one has stepped forward to lead the city’s bid to host a leg of the Quiznos Pro Challenge, an international cycling race set for next year.

The city’s tourism bureau cannot assume that leadership role under the organizers’ rules. Without such leadership, the Springs could see itself left out of the race.

Cyclists and enthusiasts all across Colorado and even the nation are Twittering, blogging and posting with glee about the event, set for Aug. 22-28, 2011 along a route in Colorado that has yet to be determined.

The last international cycling race in Colorado took place in 1988, when the Coors International Bicycle Classic was staged.

Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and Gov. Bill Ritter announced the return of pro cycling to the state earlier this month. Since then, event organizers have been peddling fast and furiously to prepare.

Sanctioned by USA Cycling and the International Cycling Union, the Quiznos Pro Challenge will be managed by Medalist Sports, which will run operations, logistics and marketing.

On Aug. 6, the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau received a 55-page bid packet that was sent to cities interested in serving as possible staging areas; race organizers had not included cities in their preliminary planning for the event, so the news of the race came as a surprise to tourism officials here and elsewhere in the state.

Bureau officials are analyzing the bid to see if Colorado Springs can meet all the demands required of cities that want to be part of the race route.

It won’t be easy.

The deadline to submit a bid is Sept. 10, not enough time to adequately prepare, CVB officials said.

Numerous convention and visitors bureaus in the state, including Colorado Springs’, plan to request a 30- to 60-day extension to the deadline, which was set by Medalist Sports.

Requirements that cities must fill for the race include 100 complimentary hotel rooms and 300 hotel rooms for media. Room rates must not exceed $90 each, and the hotels must be three-star, full-service, or greater.

Moreover, if multiple hotels are used, they must be within a one-block walking area.

Given that the race is in the midst of the already-busy tourist season, these hotel-room logistics would present a challenge for Colorado Springs.

The only hotels that could fit the bill — including the distance requirement — would be The Doubletree and the Crowne Plaza in the southwest part of the city.

CVB chief Terry Sullivan said the bid also requires the city to establish a local organizing committee to coordinate with city officials, hotels and other groups. The CVB, however, cannot serve as that committee.

“Someone in the cycling community has to step forward to take that leadership,” he said.

Until the CVBs across the state can meet with Medalist Sports, officials won’t know if there’s any latitude or flexibility in these requirements.

The final decision on whether the city moves forward will rest with the City Council.

City services required include multiple police barricades, and escorts, crowd control, a health care tent, 600 complimentary boxed lunches on the morning of the race start, portable restrooms, vendor stations and much more.

“I have a can-do attitude, but it’s a lot of detail to wade through and bring multiple players to the table, before you can say here we go — we’re on,” Sullivan said.

That said, Sullivan fully expects that the city will get involved, a committee will be established and the bid will move forward.

“Why should we not be a part of it? With our cycling community and USA Cycling here, we want to be part of it,” he said.

USA Cycling has worked in an advisory capacity for about a year to help race planners understand international rules and regulations for sponsors and the state, to be able to make the race a reality, said Steve Johnson, CEO of USA Cycling, the national governing body which is headquartered in Colorado Springs.

Although no routes are planned as yet, if Colorado Springs wins a host bid, Johnson said that several local areas are a natural fit for a race route, including Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy (where the 1986 World Cycling Championships were held) and Black Forest.

Race organizers typically try to incorporate the features that surround a host city and then finish in the downtown area, Johnson said.

“Colorado has a lot of spectacular places to hold a bike race, and Colorado Springs would be a phenomenal venue,” he said.

“You can’t underestimate the impact this race will have on an already-robust cycling community. To bring this level of racing back to Colorado is a wonderful opportunity. Every place an event like this goes, it captures the hearts of hundreds of thousands of spectators,” Johnson said.

Q & A

Quiznos Pro Challenge General Manager Joe Moller talks about the race, bid requirements and more..

What did it take to bring this event to Colorado?
Vision, leadership and support. Thanks to the winning combination of Lance Armstrong, Gov. Ritter and Quiznos, the Quiznos Pro Challenge is set to become a reality for the world to enjoy. Colorado, of course, is a hot-bed of cycling enthusiasm and history, so we are already off to a strong start. There is still a lot of work to do, including confirming additional sponsors and partners, as well as recruiting volunteers, but we are off to a great start.

What is the list of requirements for a city to host a stage of the race?
There are several ways that a Colorado community can be a part of the Quiznos Pro Challenge. Cities and towns typically play a role of an official start, finish or pass-through community on a daily basis. The QPC has a detailed request for proposal, which has already been distributed to Colorado communities, with the goal of identifying host partners for the inaugural year.

Typically, how many riders compete in an internationally staged race such as this?
The Quiznos Pro Challenge is an invitation-only event to the best teams in the world. Ultimately, 15 to 16 teams, comprised of eight riders per team, are expected for the inaugural event. So (the race should see) a total of 120 to 128 total riders, who will represent over 20 different countries. Teams and riders will be in top shape following the Tour de France, and many of the top European and North American teams have already expressed interest in racing in the QPC.

What kind of economic impact does a city, state or region experience from a race like this?
More than $35 million in direct economic impact is expected for the state of Colorado and its communities in the first year. In addition, millions of impressions will be generated via marketing and media exposure. About 500,000-plus spectators are expected, with millions more watching the race live via the state-of-the-art web programming and television broadcasts.

What will be the biggest challenges in staging this race?
For an inaugural year, and over the next 12 months, the biggest challenge will be to maximize the QPC’s true potential. We are very grateful for the existing demand for just such a race, locally, nationally and internationally. Our goal in the first year is to give the growing audience of recreational cyclists a reason to tune in to the exciting world of competitive cycling.