The four-day Tour of Colorado stage race is set for Aug. 10-13, 2017, according to the race calendar released by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for cycling. It’ll be part of the UCI Americas Tour, as will the Commonwealth Cycling Classic to be held Aug. 24-27 in Richmond, Va.
The Pro Challenge was a week-long race, as are many of the more traditional stage races in Europe and the United States, such as the Tour of California and the Tour of Utah.
“I think you start where you know you can sustain the race,” said Jonathan Vaughters, manager of the Boulder-based Cannondale-Drapac pro team. “Then, if it grows because the support is there to grow, you can do that later.”
Colorado’s proximity to the Utah race should make attracting high-profile teams easier. UCI lists the event as a 2.HC stage race, meaning that WorldTour teams — the sport’s top squads, which are required to race in WorldTour competitions such as the Tour de France — will be present. No more than 65 percent of the teams may be WorldTour, and the squads will also include a mix of professional continental, continental and national teams. The Richmond race is a stage below, a 2.1 on UCI’s scale, which can include no more than 50 percent WorldTour teams and a mix of pro continental, continental and national teams.
The USA Pro Challenge collapsed in the aftermath of its September 2015 race when founders Rick and Richard Schaden gave up control just weeks after the fifth edition of the event concluded.
Professional cycling has for years struggled for viability in the United States, where it is largely supported by backers with deep pockets. The Tour of California, for instance, which just bumped up to a WorldTour level event, is funded by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz.
Colorado’s event is being funded by RPM Events Group, a group of investors that includes Denver’s Gart family; Liberty Global; David Koff, a partner at InterMedia Partners investment fund and a past Liberty Media executive; and Denver philanthropist Ben Walton, a grandson to Walmart founder Sam Walton.
Ken Gart, chairman of RPM, has said that the event will go beyond a pro race and include national musical acts, a festival, athlete interaction, mass-participation events and so-called “spoke events,” which could include a mountain stage or a hill climb as an offshoot of the main competition.
The group is trying to contain costs in two ways: by involving public participation, sure to be attractive in an area where recreational cycling is so popular; and by keeping the event close to Denver in an effort to tamp down on the massive costs associated with moving a stage race from town-to-town through the mountains, as the Pro Challenge did.