After four decades and three pro-level cycling races, Colorado is about to get a race it can call its own.
This August, the brand-new Colorado Classic men's and women's stage race debuts with four days of cycling spread between Colorado Springs, downtown Denver and Breckenridge. First announced in January, the men's race features four stages and will be held Aug. 10-13, with starts and finishes in Colorado Springs, Breckenridge and Denver. Sanctioned by Union Cycliste Internationale and USA Cycling, the men's Colorado Classic promises to feature the sport's top squads, according to a release from event organizers with RPM Events Group. Those teams and individual athletes will be announced in late May or early June — pretty typical for a high-level event. Final course descriptions, including distances and featured mountain passes, will also be announced early this summer.
The women's race will be held on Thursday, Aug. 10, in Colorado Springs and Friday, Aug. 11, in Breckenridge, the release continued. A separate women's criterium, which is not part of the Colorado Classic stage race, will feature pro and amateur riders the evening of Aug. 11 in Denver. Those teams and athletes have already been announced, with an eclectic collection of cyclists from across the nation and world: Alp Cycles Women's Racing Team (Colorado based), Amy D. Foundation Team (Colorado based), Colavita/Bianchi, Cylance Pro Cycling, Sho-Air Twenty20 and six more.
WOMEN, BACK IN THE SADDLE
The women's Colorado Classic races continue a long and proud tradition of pro female cycling in Colorado. It began in the mid-'70s with the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic — considered the largest pro-level women's race in the world at the time — and continued on through the Coors Classic and now-defunct USA Pro Challenge, which added women's time trials and abbreviated races to its seven-stage format in 2014 and 2015.
"I raced in Colorado in 1977 for the first time in the race known as the Red Zinger, which grew into one of the biggest bike races in the world," said Connie Carpenter-Phinney of Boulder, who won the first-ever gold medal in a women's Olympic road race and is married to cycling legend Davis Phinney. "Now, 40 years later, I'm excited to see Colorado once again leading the way forward for men's and women's pro racing."
In mid-March, organizers announced that the women's Colorado Classic was added to the prestigious USA Cycling Pro Road Tour, which showcases the premier domestic road events in the United States.
"The U.S. has consistently produced women who have won Olympic medals and World Championships," said Sean Petty, women's race director and UCI Road Commission. "I'm proud we get to showcase some of the best riders in the world for two tough days of women's racing in Colorado … The PRT highlights some of the best teams and athletes in our sport and we think not just race fans, but fans of amazing athletes, will be impressed by the caliber of riders and quality of racing they see in August."
The PRT showcases a slew of events, including criteriums, road races, stage races and omniums. Over six months, with races spanning from coast to coast, the PRT will include overall individual and team rankings for men and women, crowning PRT Champions following the 21-event calendar. The PRT features the nation's top road race events, including the Tour of California, and is open to both professional and amateur cyclists.
The amateur angle is another oddity for the Colorado Classic. Unlike the USA Pro Challenge, which struggled to be recognized on the same level as events like the Tour de France, the Classic is touted as a pro-am mashup. After four days of men's racing and two days of women's racing, Colorado Classic organizers hope new faces — and new legends — will emerge.
"The Colorado Classic's commitment to a women's race is important for women's cycling in general, and will serve as a great platform to recruit new participants and fans to the sport," said Laura Charameda, a former pro rider and World Championship winner who serves as the director of competition for the Colorado Classic women's race. "Women's cycling is in a growth phase globally and interest is strong in North America, so we expect a robust response to the women's event in Colorado."