Our View: Riding the wheels of success | SteamboatToday.com

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Our View: Riding the wheels of success

— If we learned anything from the USA Pro Cycling Challenge's stop here last week, it's this: Steamboat needs to make every effort to be a long-term partner with the wildly successful event.

Friday's Stage 4 finish on Lincoln Avenue and Saturday's Stage 5 start with an ascent of Rabbit Ears Pass drew thousands of people to Steamboat on what otherwise would have been a nondescript late-August weekend. Many local lodging properties found themselves at or near capacity Friday and Saturday nights, and restaurants were busier than normal.

Even those business owners — particularly of retail stores — who didn't necessarily see a correlation between the bike race and increased sales raved about the event because they recognize the big-picture significance of Steamboat's exposure to an international audience.

The Pro Cycling Challenge was televised to 161 countries and territories on five continents. A partial analysis by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. turned up 106 mentions of Steamboat during the event coverage, equating to an estimated 3.3 million viewer impressions. And that's just in the U.S. The analysis didn't include the international audience exposure to Steamboat Springs.

That exposure has value far beyond local business receipts on a Friday and Saturday in late August. But it also means that other cities have taken notice.

Pro Cycling Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter told The Denver Post in a Tuesday article that competition for host cities next year will be fierce, with at least 30 towns and cities expected to make serious bids at bringing the race to their communities. Hunter estimated that half to two-thirds of the 11 host cities in this year's inaugural Pro Cycling Challenge will "play a part" in the 2012 edition.

It's safe to assume Steamboat won't again be blessed as being the only city to get a stage finish and start. And despite the fantastic crowds that turned out for the race's only stages in Northwest Colorado, it's far from guaranteed that Steamboat will get any stage at all next year.

But what's clear is that Steamboat Springs needs to make itself part of the discussion, and we need to be prepared to again submit a compelling bid when the time comes this fall. This is one peloton we can't afford to break away from.