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Pro Cycling returns to Colorado

by Dave Gibson

From the years 2011 through 2015 the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Bicycle Race rolled through the mountains and brought Coloradoans a professional sport that has long been enjoyed in Europe with race extravaganzas such as the Tour de France. When five years of monetary losses mounted, it was cancelled. There were no races in 2016. Fortunately for bicycle racing fans, in 2017 bike racing has returned to the state with the four-stage Colorado Classic.

With an ownership group that includes Walmart’s Ben Walton, and an annual budget of around 4 million dollars, the Colorado Classic didn’t expect to – and didn’t – make money this inaugural year. Chairman Ken Gart promises that the event will be held again next year and potentially for many years to come. The new hopefully sustainable financial model incorporates the Colorado Classic with music and arts festivals that generate ticket sales. United Cycling Internationale (UCI) included last week’s Colorado Classic as part of its American Tour that began October 24th of 2016 in Guatemala and concludes in Trinidad and Tobago October 1st of this year. Seven of the 22 races are held in the U.S. and four in Canada. The UCI also oversees tours in Europe, Africa, Asia (mostly in Iran), and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand).

Colorado Springs hosted the first stage of the bike race on a circuit course that ran from the downtown area to National Natural Landmark Garden of the Gods. The second stage also featured a circuit consisting of 10 laps around a 6.4 mile course. Held in Breckenridge, Illinois Gulch made for a thrilling decent. Stage three began in Denver running through Coal Creek Canyon and up Twin Spruce and Gap Roads. The twisting gravel surface of Gap Road though the Golden Gate State Park presented the most difficult challenge of the entire 20,000 ft. elevation-gain 313-mile race. Riders then turned south on Peak-to-Peak Hwy before speeding down Golden Gate Canyon back to Denver. The fourth and final stage of the men’s race started and ended at the Velorama Festival in Denver’s River North neighborhood. Controversy erupted when 4th place finisher Marco Canola accused winner Israeli Cycle Academy’s Mikhel Raim of cutting him off during the sprint to the finish. After a review, results were determined final. With the lowest accumulated time in four days, Italian Manuel Senni of BMC Racing team won the Colorado Classic overall title.

Dave Gibson has been a contributor at the Weekly Register-Call for over a dozen years. To view past articles and pictures go to: www.DaveGibsonImages.com.

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