After a 2013 hiatus, the state’s largest spectator event once again is making its way through Colorado Springs next week — but don’t blink.
The fourth USA Pro Challenge is welcoming back some of the world’s fastest cyclists, with Stage 4 of the seven-stage event here on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 21.
The stage will start at 12:50 p.m. just east of The Broadmoor at First Street and Lake Avenue. The circuit format will see cyclists sprint the flats of Old Colorado City before making a steep climb up Ridge Road into the Garden of the Gods, then into downtown Colorado Springs where, after the fourth lap, the stage will end.
According to Doug Martin, chief operating officer with the race’s local organizing committee, Colorado Springs Sports Corp., the average economic boost to each host city in years past (2011 and 2012) was $1 million.
“This is a huge score for the community to have it come back,” Martin said. “Especially such a high-profile event.”
Martin said, because of how the stages are arranged this year, Colorado Springs could reap an even larger windfall.
“For Colorado Springs it could have a huge impact,” he said, explaining that Stage 3 finishes at Monarch Pass and Stage 5 begins in Woodland Park the next day. He said he expects, due to limited lodging, many spectators to stay in Colorado Springs both prior to and following Stage 4.
In addition, teams will stay in Colorado Springs both those nights and a public gala at The Broadmoor will follow the race.
Martin said the circuit format of Stage 4 provides local spectators with an unprecedented viewing opportunity.
“Any other stage and most spectators are going to see the riders go by in 10, 15, 20 seconds and they’re gone,” he said. “Here, with the circuit, if you’re on West Colorado Avenue, you can see them go by 10 times. It’s an amazing opportunity to see the top cyclists in the world not once or twice, but 10 times.”
For those not familiar with cycling, Martin said, strategy plays a much bigger role than people realize.
“I think a lot of people don’t understand the team aspect,” he said.
“It’s not just a bunch of individuals all trying to win. There’s strategy in how teams protect their lead riders, how they climb hills and time breakaways. The team is trying to help the lead rider preserve his lead, and there’s lots of strategy.”
Strategy aside, the cyclists go really, really fast, Martin said.
“I think the speed will surprise a lot of people, especially compared to your everyday cyclist,” he said.
The race will be broadcast on NBC and the NBC Sports Network, and with aerial shots of The Broadmoor, Garden of the Gods and Old Colorado City, Martin said the free marketing for the city couldn’t be any better.
“This is the top cycling event in the United States,” Martin said. “There are great ones, like the Tour of California and the Tour of Utah, or even the Tour of Alberta, but this might be the premier event in North America.”
According to Martin, spectators should check out the event while they can because, like last year, there’s no guarantee it will be back in Colorado Springs in 2015.
“We could provide the perfect event and the route will change every year, no matter what we do,” he said. “It won’t ever be in Colorado Springs every year because organizers want to move it to different cities.”
He said the city will always be a top contender, however, because of the professionalism of partner organizations involved in organizing the event.
“The city is doing a lot to make sure the event goes well,” Martin said. “From police support to road closures to notifying the public, the city is ensuring this is successful.”