Officials optimistic USA Pro Cycling Challenge will return to Steamboat |

Officials optimistic USA Pro Cycling Challenge will return to Steamboat

Jack Weinstein

— The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is bringing back six of its 2011 host cities for next year's race, but Steamboat Springs isn't among them.

Based on feedback received from race officials, who lauded Steamboat for how well it hosted a stage finish and start during the inaugural race, members of the local organizing committee and government leaders thought Steamboat had a good chance to be named a host city next year.

Pro Cycling Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter called Steamboat "the most energetic stage (he'd) ever been a part of in cycling" after nearly 130 cyclists pedaled into a spectator-filled downtown Steamboat on Aug. 26.

"We think that was the biggest crowd of the week," he said at the time. "Steamboat shined on a big platform."

But Steamboat was not named one of the 12 host cities out of the nearly 40 that applied, USA Pro Cycling Challenge officials announced Thursday.

"That disappoints me big time," Steamboat City Manager Jon Roberts said. "It was such a wonderful event in Steamboat, and the community enjoyed the event. It created so much enthusiasm that I was very much looking forward to building on that."

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Roberts added that it was disappointing because there is an interest, with the Steamboat Springs Bike Town USA Initiative, to increase biking-related tourism. He said the Pro Cycling Challenge provided a nice boost to that this year.

Race officials created a Southern Colorado route that starts in Durango, ends in Denver and doesn't go north of Interstate 70 until Stage 6.

The 2012 route is: Stage 1, Durango to Telluride; Stage 2, Montrose to Crested Butte; Stage 3, Gunnison to Aspen; Stage 4, Aspen to Beaver Creek; Stage 5, Breckenridge to Colorado Springs; Stage 6, Golden to Boulder; and Stage 7, time trial in Denver.

Routt County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Diane Mitsch Bush said she, too, was disappointed but hoped Steamboat would benefit from the race's second year.

"Whenever we bring attention to Colorado and the mountain towns in Colorado and we bring people to Colorado, especially to our mountain resort towns, then even if they aren't coming directly to Steamboat, maybe we'll get some indirect benefits, as well," she said. "For a lot of people, maybe they'll come over here, too, once the race is over."

According to race organizer Medalist Sports, the event attracted 1 million spectators and generated $83.5 million in economic benefit for the state.

Pro Cycling Challenge Chief Operating Officer Brian Farris, who also was in Steamboat for the stage finish and start, echoed Hunter's sentiments Friday. He said Steamboat was an "amazing" stage and lauded the crowds that lined Lincoln Avenue and U.S. Highway 40 as the cyclists rode toward Breckenridge over Rabbit Ears Pass.

"Every year, as we approach the year's race, we want to keep some things, and we want to add some things to the race," Farris said "The state offers tremendous opportunities to explore different facets. This year, we decided to start in Durango and expose that Four Corners region to our fans and the world. The race unfolded from that."

Farris added, "We're very grateful for Steamboat's contribution to the race. They put together a great proposal this year. It didn't fit in the flow of the race across the state, but we hope to have them back in a future race."

Jim Schneider, who chaired the local committee that organized this year's stages and applied to be a host city next year, said his conversations with race officials indicated that it's only a matter of time before the race returns to Steamboat.

"They'll be back," he said. "And we're going to do everything we can to ensure they do come back. The goal is for this to be a long-term event for the state, and if Steamboat could get a stage or two every year or every other year, that would be a wonderful thing."

Farris said route specifics haven't been determined. He said the 2012 race will be longer than this year's 518-mile route.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email

USA Pro Cycling Challenge

■ 2012 route

Stage 1, Aug. 20: Durango to Telluride

Stage 2, Aug. 21: Montrose to Crested Butte

Stage 3, Aug. 22: Gunnison to Aspen

Stage 4, Aug. 23: Aspen to Beaver Creek

Stage 5, Aug. 24: Breckenridge to Colorado Springs

Stage 6, Aug. 25: Golden to Boulder

Stage 7, Aug. 26: Denver (individual time trial)

■ 2011 route

Stage 1: Salida to Crested Butte

Stage 2: Gunnison to Aspen

Stage 3: Vail time trial

Stage 4: Avon to Steamboat

Stage 5: Steamboat Springs to Breckenridge

Stage 6: Golden to Denver

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