We could argue all day about what cultural, sports or other events bring the most valuable exposure for Colorado Springs to the outside world.
Many would nominate the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, with its global coverage to Japan and Europe. As that event grows exponentially in the years to come thanks to the fully paved highway, it might prevail in this kind of discussion.
Some might insist that the annual Space Symposium, which always attracts an impressive array of heavy hitters to The Broadmoor each spring, shows the Springs at its finest. Yes, even without much major-media coverage.
Still others could point to the positive national TV exposure that comes from Air Force football having home games televised by the major networks. That will happen again on Oct. 6 when Navy visits Falcon Stadium, with CBS showing the festivities, scenic views and crowd atmosphere to coast-to-coast viewers.
From our view, though, the most useful and, yes, priceless exposure is happening this weekend, as Colorado Springs provides the finish venue for Stage 5 of cycling’s 2012 USA Pro Challenge.
We know what to expect because of what unfolded last year in the USA Pro Challenge’s debut, and again early this week as many of the world’s best cyclists began traversing another “tour” across Colorado.
Our city served as the venue last August for the prologue, a time trial from Garden of the Gods to downtown Colorado Springs. That meant all the cyclists and the sport’s media specialists spent several days here. It also meant that the international TV coverage began with mesmerizing aerial views of Garden of the Gods and much of the Springs. Never has the city — even downtown — looked better to such a large, worldwide audience.
This time, the cable network has a new name, changed from Versus to NBC Sports, and that adds power to the exposure. But TV crews are largely the same, making sure to show plenty of mountain views throughout, as they did from the start of this year’s USA Pro Challenge on Monday, from Durango to Telluride.
For Stage 5, the NBC Sports crew not only could draw from last year’s experience here, but also from the drama of a stage race (not a time trial, one cyclist at a time, racing only against the clock) with everyone careening through Woodland Park, down Ute Pass, through Manitou Springs into Garden of the Gods, then finishing with three laps around the north side of downtown. It’ll show how close we actually are to the mountains, with the day beginning in Breckenridge and ending here.
Adding to the promotional jackpot, Stage 5 leads into the weekend, when NBC takes over the TV coverage. So the excitement in Colorado Springs will be fresh material for the largest audiences on Saturday and Sunday.
There’s no way to know whether the NBC folks will show how our city has bounced back from the Waldo Canyon fire. If they do, great, because it’ll prove that the fire didn’t shut down Colorado Springs. If they choose to ignore it, no problem, because viewers will see this city as a place worth visiting.
Three hours on Friday, lots of replays on the weekend, showing Colorado Springs to millions of people in an estimated 160 countries.
Don’t try to put a price tag on that. You can’t.