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After Thousands of Dollars and Man-Hours, Host Cities Ready for Pro Cycling Challenge

Grace Hood

Today marks the start of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a seven-day professional bike race that will broadcast images of Colorado to about 200 countries. It also marks the finish line for the 12 cities hosting the event, which have spent months and thousands of dollars preparing to welcome the traveling road show.

Five new locations including Boulder will see the race roll through town this year. Boulder organizing co-chair Andrew Shoemaker says racers will actually go through town twice—creating more of a reason for spectators to stay throughout the day.

Credit USA Pro Cycling Challenge
USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Stage 6 Map: Golden to Boulder

It’s a feather in the cap for local organizers, who’ve been balancing a delicate juggling act since the beginning of the year. So far Shoemaker has facilitated discussions on everything from traffic concerns to the environmental impact of the race on nearby Flagstaff Mountain.

But the biggest challenge so far has been getting everyone comfortable with what needs to be done to host a party for thousands of people.

“[It’s the] fear of the unknown, both at the organizational stage and at the political stage, and at the community stage,” he says.

While every place has similar logistical challenges—finding hotel and food for the hundreds of racers, trainers and coaches—the one thing they don’t have to deal with is setting up the finish line, which includes two giant jumbotron TV screens.

“It’s a traveling show, and they bring that show from city to city, and they leap frog them. So Colorado Springs has its set up, and the set up from the day before comes to Boulder,” he says.

Even still, the average price tag for a city to host the race is an estimated $250,000.

“Our goal is for the cities to end up with a cash reserve and this is before economic impact,” says Race CEO Shawn Hunter. “This is just through their fundraising efforts, through local sponsorship, through unique fundraising events.”

Hunter hopes the event will draw at least the 1 million spectators who came out last year, which helped almost every host city make it into the black.

Credit USA Pro Cycling Challenge
USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Stage 5 Map: Breckenridge to Colorado Springs.

Using the Race as a ‘Springboard’

In Colorado Springs, the economic boost will be a particularly welcome shot in the arm. Unlike Boulder, which has had a strong tourism season Colorado Springs, saw a slump in July following the Waldo Canyon Fire. Even ice cream sales have been lower this year, according to Lindsay Keller, co-owner of Josh and John’s Ice Cream.

Thanks to the city’s organizing committee, shop owners like Keller have signs posted in their storefronts, advertising TV watching parties on race day.

“I think we’re just going to be happy to see people, and probably run a couple of specials,” she says. “It’s just going to be a happy day.”

It’s a subtle change, but it may just be the thing that persuades a spectator to leave the streets and spend extra dollars inside a shop. Amy Triandiflou with Vladimir Jones, an agency managing local marketing for the Friday stage, says the poster idea was one of several that came from hosting a stage in 2011.

“There are a lot of things from last year that we learned. When to get information out, how to get information out,” she says. “This year we don’t have a physical piece of paper we’re giving out. We have door hangers that we could easily leave on someone’s door knob.”

Overall, Colorado Springs organizing committee chair Chris Carmichael says hosting 2011 was a success. The hope for this year is “to take it up a notch” with even more local events leading up to the city’s Friday stage.

“We want to make sure we’re using this as a springboard for cycling in Colorado Springs, family activities in Colorado Springs, community activities,” he says. “We want to embrace it all and the fertilizer so to speak is the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.”

Many other host cities like Boulder are taking a similar approach with organizing local rides and other public events surrounding the race.

Race Envy

Meantime, other communities—like Northern Colorado—already are setting their sights on making the cut for next year. Organizers have started to meet with local business leaders. Loveland and Fort Collins have promised $100,000 each for the effort if the bid is successful.

Eric Thompson, who is heading up efforts, is already imaging what Northern Colorado’s “postcard to the world” might look like on international TV.

“I’m imagining it rolling through Estes Park and showing Rocky Mountain National Park in the background, or Horsetooth in background, or Boyd Lake,” he says. “It could be really spectacular.”

But this week is all about the here and now. Towns like Durango, Aspen, Colorado Springs and Boulder.

On Pearl Street, shops like Full Cycle are preparing for all the spectators who will be here on Saturday.

While he doesn’t have a poster in his window inviting customers to a viewing party, General Manager Chuck Gartrell may not need one.

“It’s a common conversation piece,” he says. “We’re overjoyed to have what we now are expecting 100,000 to 150,000 people at our front door.”

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