Organizers of the Colorado Classic didn’t pull the plug on the professional road cycling event Tuesday morning, but they certainly changed power sources.
In a bold and perhaps unprecedented move, RPM Events Group chairman Ken Gart announced that the third edition of the four-day stage race would not include men and would focus solely on women.
“We’re doing so much more than focusing on women’s cycling,” Gart said at a press conference in Denver.
“We are putting our money where our mouth is.”
Indeed, the total purse to be awarded during the 2019 event, scheduled for Aug. 22-25, will be almost four times higher than that given to women at this year’s event. Teams also will receive stipends for travel and expenses.
“This is a monumental day for women’s cycling,” race director and Monument resident Sean Petty said. “It’s a huge paradigm shift. Normally, when you hear about a race going away, it’s the women’s race. This is flipping the script, and it’s time we did this.”
In coming to the decision to bypass the men in 2019, Gart expressed his team’s desire to create “one great race instead of two average ones.” Neither race garnered much fanfare this summer in Vail and Denver, leaving the future of the event in doubt.
Growing costs likely also contributed to the move. The financial burden to operate an event of this magnitude is great, and putting on two races instead of one only increases that.
That’s why most races feature only men. The events that include both men and women typically do so with a lesser emphasis on the women, who ride fewer stages and much shorter courses.
When the USA Pro Challenge ushered professional cycling back into Colorado in 2011, women were not included. It stayed that way for the first four editions of the race. Even in 2015, the last year of the event, women raced only three stages compared with seven by the men.
The Colorado Classic has featured men and women both years, though women raced only two stages to the men’s four in 2017.
Now, the road belongs to some of the best female cyclists in the world. And, in addition to more money, organizers promise longer courses, more challenging routes and better start times. The race also will be streamed live on cycling websites, Facebook and the event’s mobile app.
“From the inaugural race of the Colorado Classic two years ago, the organization has stood behind women,” three-time Olympic gold medalist and 2015 Pro Challenge champion Kristin Armstrong said. “The announcement today of a women’s-only UCI stage race truly shows the dedication and commitment the Colorado Classic has to women in sport.”
Colorado Springs played host to the inaugural stage of the Colorado Classic in 2017, when both men and women raced through downtown, Old Colorado City and Garden of the Gods. It is not known whether the Springs will be a part of the 2019 route as host cities will not be named until early next year.
Canadian Sara Poidevin and American Katie Hall won the first two editions of the race.