Quiznos Pro Challenge schedule
Aug. 22 - Stage 1, prologue time trial, Colorado Springs
Aug. 23 - Stage 2, Salida to Crested Butte, mountain-top finish
Aug. 24 - Stage 3, Gunnison to Aspen, mountain stage
Aug. 25 - Stage 4, Vail, time trial, former Coors Classic stage
Aug. 26 - Stage 5, Avon to Steamboat Springs
Aug. 27 - Stage 6, Steamboat Springs to Breckenridge
Aug. 28 - Stage 7, Golden to Denver
Steamboat Springs In a year that’s seen tremendous enthusiasm and development for Steamboat Springs’ bicycling fortunes, the latest news is some of the biggest.
Steamboat is in as one of the cities for next year’s Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race, ensuring that as the community strives to earn the label Bike Town USA, it will at least for two days and one night have a worldwide audience.
“This is huge,” said Steamboat Ski Area Vice President of Skier Services Jim Schneider, who helped lead the effort to secure Steamboat’s bid.
The route for the inaugural road race, divided into seven stages, was announced Thursday morning at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver, and community representatives from 11 cities along the route took the stage alongside Gov. Bill Ritter and a slew of pro cyclists and celebrities, including Denver Bronco legend Shannon Sharpe.
Steamboat was the last city officially announced, but it might have been rewarded unlike any other. Steamboat is the only city of the 11 that will be a part of two stages. Riders will arrive on the shores of the Yampa River on Friday, Aug. 26, on a ride from Avon. They will depart the next morning on the second-to-last day of the race, headed for Breckenridge.
The race, first announced in August by Ritter and cyclist Lance Armstrong, is expected to be one of the world’s premier road bike races, and Steamboat will be square in the middle of it.
“It is a great and exciting day for me personally and for the state of Colorado,” Ritter said during the announcement. “We will tell the rest of the world, in a different way than we have in a long time, what kind of fabulous cycling we have here, from the picturesque landscape to the good people of Colorado who will host this.”
An exclusive list
Steamboat is joined on the first-year itinerary by Aspen, Avon, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Colorado Springs, Salida, Vail, Breckenridge, Golden and Denver. The course will differ year to year.
Although the exact route won’t be announced until later in 2010, much of it can be deciphered based on the schedule.
The race will start with a time trial prologue in Colorado Springs on Aug. 22.
The next day, the first road stage will challenge riders with a climb from Salida, through Crested Butte, to the small town of Mount Crested Butte, at nearly 10,000 feet.
Riders will go from Gunnison to Aspen in a mountain stage a day later, then on Aug. 25 they’ll ride a time trial in Vail. They’ll follow that up with the trip to Steamboat and then back down to Breckenridge.
The final day is a ride from Golden to Denver.
“What’s the hardest way to get from Point A to Point B? That’s probably the route we’ll take,” Quiznos spokeswoman Ellen Kramer said.
It’s a challenge several cyclists who spoke at the event were eager to attack.
“The Europeans get to race in their backyard all the time,” Colorado pro Tim Duggan said. “I haven’t gotten that chance. I spent my childhood ski racing, competing in Aspen, Crested Butte and Breckenridge, and I’ve spent my cycling career racing and riding on the Front Range of Colorado. A lot of these towns hosting this race, they feel like hometowns to me. This race goes full circle, and I’m excited to bring world-class international cycling to my friends and family right here in Colorado.”
Patience paying off
The announcement came after months of hard work by a committee of Steamboat Springs community members, many of whom were in Denver for the news.
“Our citizens are fired up for this,” Steamboat City Councilman Scott Myller said, addressing the Denver audience. “We have spent the last two years trying to raise our name from Ski Town USA to Bike Town USA. We have many cycling-friendly businesses, cycling events and some bike frame manufacturers. Thanks so much, and just know you can count on us to put on a great stage.”
Schneider said the process started almost immediately after the race was announced.
Race organizers said they considered everything, from available lodging to quality of riding.
The application process was one mirrored in other Colorado towns. Some seemingly obvious destinations such as Fort Collins and Estes Park didn’t apply. Other seemingly obvious destinations weren’t selected. A Boulder spokesperson said Thursday that the dates — right when college students would be arriving for school — complicated that city’s application.
In all, 23 cities applied, and all eagerly awaited the word that finally began to seep out earlier this week.
“We thought it would be a really good thing for Steamboat,” Schneider said. “There was a period there we were wondering what was going on. We kept asking for information, and they just said, ‘It’s coming.’ Usually if you’re a part of the deal, you get a little more conversation, but I think they saw from the get-go the advantages of Steamboat and didn’t need any more information to tell them it was a great choice.”
Just what the selection means will become more clear in the months leading up to the event.
Some of the best riders and teams in the world are expected to participate, and throngs of fans and media are expected to follow and fill the towns on the route.
It will fuel an obvious boom for the local late-summer economy, Schneider pointed out, and be a boon to what local cycling leaders hope is another big season for biking in Steamboat.
“It can only help with the overall (Bike Town USA) Initiative,” Schneider said. “It will showcase cycling and the benefits of the sport as a whole. It will show kids and the rest of the community how great cycling can be.”
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org