Our View: Steamboat is ready for Pro Challenge | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Steamboat is ready for Pro Challenge

A little more than a month ago, Gov. Bill Ritter and cycling legend Lance Armstrong stood together on a Denver stage to announce the creation of the Quiznos Pro Challenge cycling stage race.

Just four days later, Ritter and Armstrong stood together again, this time on a small stage atop Rabbit Ears Pass just outside Steamboat Springs. They were in town for the inaugural Ride 4 Yellow, a Livestrong-partnered event that raised an astonishing $250,000 for local and global cancer-fighting efforts.

The success of Ride 4 Yellow, followed by this weekend's second annual Steamboat Springs Stage Race, prove once again how adept our community is at organizing and hosting professional caliber events in the heart of gorgeous Northwest Colorado. We hope it also demonstrates to Medalist Sports, organizers of the Quiznos Pro Challenge, that Steamboat Springs is an ideal location for hosting a stage of the first major international pro cycling competition in Colorado since the demise of the Coors Classic in 1988.

Call it a perfect storm or a case of logical convergence, but the time is right for Steamboat Springs to climb another rung on the ladder of cycling relevance. If Labor Day weekend's Steamboat Springs Stage Race affirmed our city's place on the state map for cycling, hosting a stage of next year's Quiznos Pro Challenge will bring deserved national and international focus on Northwest Colorado's ideal riding conditions and warm, Western hospitality.

The cycling movement is moving full steam ahead in Steamboat Springs, and was doing so before the Aug. 4 announcement of the Quiznos Pro Challenge. Efforts from the Bike Town USA task force to make Steamboat Springs and Routt County an elite road and mountain biking destination are beginning to bear fruit. Membership in Routt County Riders, the local cycling advocacy group, is swelling. Participation in local cycling events such as the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series continues to soar. Community biking get-togethers like the SmartWool Bike-in Movie and Kent Eriksen's annual Tour de Steamboat fundraiser have been enormous successes. This weekend will see Steamboat's first cyclocross competition. A multiday Bike Summit is planned for October. The list could go on.

Combining Steamboat's exploding love of cycling with our community's well-documented history of hosting world class events should make Routt County a logical choice for the Quiznos Pro Challenge. From World Cup skiing competitions to U.S. Olympic Team Trials, Steamboat is no stranger to hosting major athletic events. And in typical Steamboat fashion, the local business community and civic organizations always rise to the occasion.

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To that end, a group of local business and civic leaders has met the past three weeks to prepare an official host city application for the Quiznos Pro Challenge. That proposal will be submitted by the end of this week. Many local entities already have signed on in support of the event. And judging by the burgeoning success of the Steamboat Springs Stage Race and Ride 4 Yellow, there will be no shortage of enthusiastic local volunteers to pull off a one- or two-day event of the magnitude of a Quiznos Pro Challenge race stop.

Steamboat also has the distinct advantage of not being burdened with a major interstate running through the heart of the Yampa Valley. Instead, we have less traveled but no less picturesque highways leading to a number of challenging rides and potential other host cities and towns.

Kudos to that local organizing committee, headed by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.'s Jim Schneider, for its initiative. The competition for host city status will be fierce, particularly amount mountain resort communities. Aspen, Gunnison/Crested Butte, Durango, Telluride and Vail are just a few of the other expected hopefuls for the seven-day stage race to take place Aug. 22 to 28. We think Steamboat Springs rises to the top, and we think the community should embrace the opportunity to prove it.

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