VAIL, Colorado - A couple of weeks after the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge raced its way through Vail and Avon, the race's chairman Shawn Hunter said Vail would be one of the cities along the race route that would "be pretty tough to skip" for future races.
But the announcement came out last week that Vail didn't make the cut for the 2012 stage race, and neither did Avon. The race will roll through Minturn on its way to a finish in Beaver Creek, the only Vail Valley location that will serve as a host during the 2012 race.
Hunter said the selection committee views Vail as one part of the Vail Valley but that it thinks of the Vail Valley as a whole, as one place.
"Us coming back to Beaver Creek really is a compliment to all the Vail Valley," Hunter said.
The Vail Valley Foundation, the local event organizer for the Pro Cycling Challenge, submitted three options to the selection committee for consideration. Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said she's happy one of the options was selected; however, the Foundation felt confident the Vail time-trial stage would be back on the schedule in 2012.
"So, we are disappointed that the Vail time trial was dropped," Folz said via email to the Vail Daily. "Not only was it a historic route dating back to Coors Classic days, but the energy surrounding it was fantastic and the support and expertise from the town and all its citizens from the very get-go was amazing. Vail was an early supporter of bringing stage racing back to Colorado, and we were certainly hopefully that those efforts and that commitment would result in a return."
Folz acknowledges that the town of Vail and the Foundation certainly don't own the event and respects the selection committee's decision, she said.
Vail Mayor Andy Daly said the town of Vail was and still is excited about the Pro Cycling Challenge.
"We're just disappointed we weren't (chosen as) one of the stops," Daly said.
Competition among cities across Colorado vying for a stage got fierce this year after such a successful inaugural year. With a reported $83.5 million in statewide economic impact, cities and towns across Colorado all want their piece of the pie.
"It's humbling to have 24 cities bid - it's incredible," Hunter said. "I wish we didn't have to tell anyone 'no.' What we do try to emphasize is don't get frustrated - we're here for the long term; we want to come back."
Hunter still says Vail is a likely stage for future races. He puts Vail in the same category as Aspen, which has a start and a finish in 2012; Denver, which will host the time trial on the final day of the 2012 race; and Colorado Springs, which has a finish in 2012, as cities "we want to race almost every year."
"I would predict (the Vail time trial) does come back in the future," Hunter said. "But we can't guarantee we're going to go back to the same place every year."
The selection process this year took a lot into consideration. Hunter said they tried to select cities that will make the race tougher for the athletes this year, and also more exciting for the fans.
They wanted the final day of the race to also present a more dramatic finish. In 2011, Levi Leipheimer had a dramatic finish in the Vail time trial that nearly sealed his victory later.
"It put him in a great position to ultimately take the yellow (jersey) in Denver," Hunter said. " ... Vail was one of the top moments of truth - that was just a magical day."
But the organizers want the final stage to still be a race. They want it to be a man versus clock race against time - a race for the victory.
"The ultimate goal this year was to design a course that the winner could be decided on the last day, and even in the last 30 minutes, of the race," Hunter said.
With that goal in mind, the Vail time trial was out. But because the Pro Cycling Challenge wants to change the stages around year after year to keep the race interesting and exciting, as well as to showcase the entire state of Colorado to the world, the 2012 route doesn't mean Vail and Avon won't be back in the race in 2013 and beyond.
"Ceil and her group - I'm not sure I've worked with a more professional organization than them," Hunter said. "You'll see that (Vail) time trial come back, and it could be later in the race, maybe on a Saturday before the finish."
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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