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by Michael Better
August 19, 2016
Photography by Kristof Ramon; Cor Vos
Two new UCI stage races for the United States are being planned for 2017, in Colorado and Virginia, multiple sources have told CyclingTips.
Representatives from Georgia-based Medalist Sports declined to comment when asked to confirm details of the new events, or their involvement.
Medalist Sports provides technical support for professional cycling events such as the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and Tour of Alberta, as well as the now-defunct USA Pro Challenge, and from 2006 through 2015, the Amgen Tour of California.
Rumors of the Colorado event gained steam after USA Pro Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter told the Denver Post he would not pursue the race in 2017. After a five-year run, the 2016 Pro Challenge was cancelled in February.
CyclingTips understands that the new Colorado event is tentatively titled the Tour of Colorado, as Hunter owns the trademark to the name USA Pro Challenge.
The Tour of Colorado name appears as such on the 2017 UCI America Tour draft calendar, and is slated as a 2.HC stage race to be held August 14-20. However that calendar was last updated in April and still lists the Amgen Tour of California as a 2.HC event, rather than a WorldTour event, which it will become next year.
The name Tour of Colorado has, for years, been registered to Andy Bohlmann of Sand Creek Sports, and in 2012 was used to describe a series of amateur races.
“We need a race called the Tour of Colorado,” said Bohlmann, who served as technical director for the U.S. Cycling Federation in the late 1980s. “I’ll do what I can to help make that happen.”
The proposed East Coast event, based in Richmond, Virginia, does not appear on the draft calendar of the 2017 UCI America Tour. The proposed date for the Richmond date is believed to be early September.
CyclingTips has knowledge that the proposed new UCI stage races will be shorter than usual — perhaps four or five days — and use one centrally located hotel as a base, utilizing surrounding towns for stage starts and finishes, rather than travel from town to town.
Richmond is no stranger to high-level professional bike racing, having hosted the 2015 UCI world road championships, as well as multiple stages of the defunct Tour de Trump and Tour DuPont.
Tim Miller, the chief operating officer at Richmond 2015, the organizing committee for the 2015 world road championships, is rumored to be overseeing the new Richmond stage race.
Medalist Sports managed technical aspects of the Richmond worlds for Richmond 2015, including course design and overall site layout.
Miller did not return a request for comment.
“I had heard the rumor, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapace), a native of Marshall, Virginia, when asked how he felt about a professional stage race coming to his home state. “You know how we have bike racing in the States, we have a race for four or five years and then it disappears, so I guess we’ll see.”
The City of Richmond has the option of hosting a stage on the downtown course, featuring the cobbled climb of Libby Hill, that saw Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) capture the elite titles.
The Virginia event has multiple options in terms of stage routes in the surrounding area, with the Blue Ridge Mountains not far away. The Wintergreen Ski Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Roseland, Virginia, not far from Charlottesville, hosted a summit finish of the Tour DuPont from 1991 to 1993.
Jim Birrell and Chris Aronhalt, co-managing partners at Medalist Sports, worked on the Tour de Trump and Tour DuPoint during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Dombrowski’s Cannondale teammate Ben King also hails from Virginia. The two are quite familiar with the climbs in the area, especially the Wintergreen Resort climb. King is listed as the KOM holder for the Wintergreen Resort climb on Strava, but Dombrowski says he owns the real record.
“I’ve done Wintergreen a bunch of times when I was younger, and I actually still have the record on it.” Dombrowski said. “I’d love to see a race in Virginia for sure.”
The Wintergreen Resort climb is used for the Virginia State Hill Climb Championship, which Dombrowski won in 2010 and 2011, first as an amateur, and then riding for Trek-Livestrong.
One of the men working to establish the Tour of Colorado, as reported by the Denver Post, is Colorado businessman Ken Gart, who in 2010 was asked by former Governor Bill Ritter to spearhead an effort to bring world-class professional cycling to Colorado, resulting in the USA Pro Challenge.
Gart is one of the main people overseeing Colorado’s $100 million “Pedals Project,” launched in September 2015 by Governor John Hickenlooper, to make Colorado the best state in the U.S. to ride a bike.
The new race will almost certainly be based along Colorado’s Front Range, which includes Fort Collins, Boulder, Golden, and Colorado Springs.
In an emailed statement, Gart wrote ““We are currently working with a group of investors and leaders in the sport to create a new event in the U.S. Our goal is to capture the excitement of pro racing, while elevating our communities to the international stage. We believe by innovating on the current approach, we can avoid the challenges that have impacted so many great American races in the past twenty years.”
Breckenridge and Vail, former host towns of the USA Pro Challenge, are within a two-hour drive of Denver. Breckenridge has seen exciting stage finishes in the past, with the finishing climb of Moonstone Road, while Vail served as host to an uphill time trial for three of the five editions, on a course dating back to the 1980s and the Coors Classic.
Downtown Denver would also likely host a stage, having featured a fast circuit for the final day of racing for four of the five editions of the USA Pro Challenge. An individual time trial in the capitol finished the race in 2012, won by Colorado native Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing).
Though neither the Colorado nor Richmond events are confirmed, in a recent interview with Cyclingnews, USA Cycling vice president of national events Micah Rice alluded to announcements “coming soon.”
“You’re going to see maybe California go away for a lot of the domestic UCI Continental teams [due to its WorldTour status], but you’re also going to see some other announcements coming out soon about some other opportunities that are going to be out there,” Rice said. “I don’t know when the announcement is on a couple of these things, but let’s just say one thing goes away and maybe two more things pop up.”