VAIL, Colorado - The USA Pro Challenge is returning to Vail and Beaver Creek in 2013, organizers announced Wednesday.
Vail will host the time trial of the professional cycling race for the second time in just three years. It's news local race organizers - which include the Vail Valley Foundation, the town of Vail, the Beaver Creek Resort Co. and Vail Resorts - are thrilled about, especially after losing the time trial to Denver for the 2012 race.
That news came in December of 2011, not long after USA Pro Cycling Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter told the Vail Daily the Vail stage "would be pretty tough to skip" in future races. He didn't make any promises, but the local community felt confident the Vail time trial would be back in 2012.
Hunter said at the time that he predicted Vail would host the time trial again, but that organizers just couldn't guarantee any host city an annual stage. The reasoning for moving the time trial to Denver in 2012 as the final stage was because organizers said they wanted a more dramatic finish for the race as a whole. They knew the time trial drama would be there after Levi Leipheimer's time trial finish in 2011 nearly sealed his victory for the entire race.
Hunter could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation, said she understood the reasoning for moving the time trial to Denver, but "we were hugely disappointed." That being said, she also recognizes that Vail might not get the time trial year after year, so organizers aren't taking it for granted.
There was some heavy lobbying going on this year to fight for Vail, Folz admitted, but she said the tour organizers were also happy to bring the race back to the site of the former Coors Classic time trial.
"It has so much history to it," Folz said of the Vail time trial course, which was once part of the Coors Classic.
In addition to the history, there's just something about being in Vail and lining the sides of the old Highway 6 up Vail Pass to cheer on the cyclists. In 2011, thousands of people showed up to cheer on the racers. Some wore costumes, some brought their families, and more importantly, many stayed in local hotels and ate in local restaurants.
The economic impact is the big reason why town of Vail officials want the race back in town. And with the schedule this year - a Thursday stage finish in Beaver Creek followed by the time trial in Vail on Friday - there could be some significant economic impacts.
"It gives folks the opportunity to come in and really make a long weekend out of it," said Vail Mayor Andy Daly, adding that now the town will be challenged with filling the rest of the weekend with complementary events that will encourage race fans to stay in town.
"We certainly were enthusiastic about holding the event here," Daly said. "It's really exciting."
The two local stages will cost about $500,000, Folz said. She said the foundation has support from the town of Vail and the Beaver Creek Resort Co., and organizers will also be knocking on every potential donor's door leading up to the event. That's part of the challenge - raising the money - because most corporate sponsorship opportunities are owned by the tour itself, meaning local organizers have to get creative.
Folz believes the investment is absolutely worth it. From the foundation's perspective, bringing international racing of any kind to the valley is just a part of its culture.
"For the Vail Valley Foundation, when we do events, we do them for the benefit of the community," Folz said. "To be able to put our community into so many households around the world (is one of those benefits)."
And to continue the "long and storied history in cycling" throughout the entire community is something the foundation is honored to do, she added.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.