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by Shane Stokes
February 13, 2016
Photography by Brian Hodes/Cor Vos
Although its organisers said last month the race would take place in 2016, appearing to end months of speculation, a reversal of that decision was announced on Friday. The 2.HC ranked event will undergo a hiatus this season, but CEO Shawn Hunter has said that it will return in 2017.
“The timing and work involved in this endeavour does not allow us to produce the event in 2016 and achieve all the goals of our important stakeholders,” he stated in a release.
“While forming a new ownership group for the event, we have been focused on ensuring the longevity of the race, expanding its coverage, and aligning it with other United States cycling events and activities.
“Building a solid platform of this type takes time and the efforts of many diverse stakeholders, and while we will not be conducting America’s Race this year, we are diligently working to complete the necessary pieces for 2017.”
The USA Pro Challenge was first held in 2011. The inaugural event was won by Levi Leipheimer, with Christian Vande Velde, Tejay van Garderen [2013 and 2014] and Rohan Dennis taking the honours in the years since.
However the founders Rick and Richard Schaden gave up control of the race last September, stepping back after trying to make it work financially. They are estimated to have spent about $20 million since its launch, although the amount which had to be handed over in recent years had dropped.
Hunter has been working on plans to turn things around since last October, but has run out of time.
Speaking to the Denver Post, he said that he had some investors lined up but wasn’t ready to announce them at this point in time.
“The people we hope to introduce as part of the team are strategic and long-term investors and that’s absolutely what it takes,” he stated.
One change he suggests could happen is a change from one event to a series of contests. He said that potential sponsors had said that this was preferable.
“One of the important pieces is to allow for continued growth of the Pro Challenge but also expansion and the introduction of new races over the next three to five years,” he explained. “Here is an opportunity to create a platform that has a handful of events in key locations that are attractive to both national sponsors and broadcasters.
“A one-off cycling event is exciting, but if it’s part of a bigger organization or a bigger vision, that’s what we think is key to long-term success.”
He added that Colorado would be the anchor point for the new series, but described the East Coast as “the next logical step” for expansion of the brand.