Springs lands 'coup' in getting stage finish of 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge

BILL VOGRIN Updated: December 8, 2011 at 12:00 am • Published: December 8, 2011

Colorado Springs will host the finish of the fifth stage of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Aug. 24 in a coup for bicycle racing fans as well as for the area’s hospitality industry, which is expected to reap a multimillion-dollar windfall.

The Springs was among a dozen Colorado cities chosen from 40 applicants to host a leg of the seven-day race scheduled Aug. 20-26.

Unlike last year, when Colorado Springs hosted the prologue — essentially an opening-day sprint from the Garden of the Gods to downtown — in 2012 the city will welcome riders who started the day in Breckenridge. The exact routes and mileage of the 2012 race have not been released.

“Colorado Springs is thrilled to once again be a host city for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge,” Mayor Steve Bach said in a news release. “The event will attract thousands of visitors and place our city on the international stage.  We are very thankful and look forward with great enthusiasm to our renewed partnership with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.”

Economists say Bach is right to be excited.

The inaugural race last August attracted more than 1 million spectators — about 25 percent from out of state — and brought $83.5 million to Colorado, according to an economic impact study by IFM, a global sports research firm.

IFM said more than $67 million was direct spending by traveling spectators who bought food, lodging, transportation and entertainment. Spending by racing teams, sponsors and vendors, plus jobs created by the event, produced the remainder.

In 2012, the revenue benefits could be even greater given the momentum from this year’s event.

It’s to the city’s advantage that it’s hosting a later stage in the race because that could mean bigger crowds and more spending, an economist suggested.

“It was a substantial economic impact statewide,” said economist Tom Binnings of Summit Economics. “As the race went on last time, you could see the crowds were much greater the closer it got to the end. I’m guessing the economic impact was greatest and most of those dollars came in during the last few days of the race.

“Being later certainly will move us up the food chain. I think it will mean a much greater impact than last year’s race had. It’s quite a coup.”

His colleague, economist Paul Rochette, agreed.

“Definitely, Colorado Springs will get a windfall,” Rochette said. “The only question is how big the windfall will be. But the numbers add up rather quickly. It’s a good thing for the Colorado Springs economy and the Colorado economy. It’s quite real.”

Levi Leipheimer won the 518-mile race in August, which included 25 hours of national television coverage and reached an international audience in more than 150 countries and territories.

Chris Carmichael, chairman of the Colorado Springs organizing committee, applauded the city’s selection.

“Last year was a truly awesome event and our anticipation for this coming year can’t be matched,” Carmichael said in a news release. “Colorado Springs has a dedicated cycling community and we are thrilled to bring the event back to our vibrant city.”

Besides the Breckenridge to Colorado Springs leg, other stages include:

• Durango to Telluride on Monday, Aug. 20 to launch the event.

• Montrose to Crested Butte with an uphill finish again in Mount Crested Butte in Stage 2.

• Gunnison to Aspen, repeating this year’s dramatic climbs over Cottonwood and Independence passes, the highest mountain passes in world bike racing, on Aug. 22 in Stage 3.

• Aspen to Beaver Creek and Vail Valley on Aug. 23 in Stage 4.

• Golden to Boulder on Aug. 25 in Stage 6.

• An individual time trial to climax the finish of the race on Sunday, Aug. 26 in Denver.
Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, said host cities had to meet a number of criteria including availability of lodging, volunteer recruitment, marketing and local tourism.

“The host cities selected for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge will enable us to showcase the beauty and hospitality of Colorado to a worldwide audience,” Hunter said. “These cities are valued partners who will work with us, hand in hand, as we continue to raise the bar for professional cycling here in America.”

Leipheimer, the defending champion, said he is looking forward to the expanded race in 2012.

“What makes Colorado uniquely challenging is the Rocky Mountains,” Leipheimer said.

“Knowing that in 2012 we will start in one corner of the state and suffer through more mountain passes than any other race of this caliber in North America is exciting. Add in the altitude factor and you’ve got one beast of a race.”

Four new cities join the 2012 race: Durango, Telluride, Montrose and Boulder. All have a long history connected to professional bike racing.

Durango is home to Bob Roll, former racer and now a commentator, as well as to the Iron Horse Classic Bicycle Race. It boasts being home to more pro cyclists, national champions and Olympians per capita than any other town in the U.S. And Boulder has long been a biking mecca.

“By incorporating iconic cycling cities like Boulder and Durango in our second-year race we will further build the virtual postcard for the state of Colorado that we established in our inaugural year,” Hunter said.

More details of the start and finish line locations, as well as the specific, detailed route will be announced in the spring.

More information can be found on the website www.outtherecolorado.com.

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