2015 USA Pro Challenge skips Vail Valley

Rafel Majka makes his way through a dense crowd for the last 200 meters of the USA Pro Challenge Vail Time Trial in Vail in 2014.Tthe USA Pro Challenge will not return in 2016, organizers said Friday.
Daily file photo |

The stages

Stage 1: Steamboat circuit.

Stage 2: Steamboat to Arapahoe Basin.

Stage 3: Copper Mountain to Aspen.

Stage 4: Aspen to Breckenridge.

Stage 5: Breckenridge time trial.

Stage 6: Fans determine the stage. Vote on line at

Stage 7: Golden to Denver.

EAGLE COUNTY — The 2015 USA Pro Challenge, a week-long cycling event in August, will skip the Vail Valley for the first time.

Pro Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter said the decision to skip Vail and Beaver Creek in 2015 was due in large part to the time and resources the community has poured into the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Still, the Vail Valley Foundation had submitted a bid to bring the Vail Pass time trial back next year.

“We have great respect for Vail,” Hunter said, adding that the valley would certainly be considered for race stages in future years.

Pro bicycling in the Vail Valley has a long history, going back to the Coors Classic events of the 1980s. The Pro Challenge gave valley cycling fans a new taste of the sport, including Jens Voigt’s dominant performance in a stage between Aspen and Vail over Independence Pass, Tennessee Pass and Battle Mountain. Racers that year flew through Minturn on the way to a stage finish at Beaver Creek.

The time trial up Vail Pass essentially determined the event winner in 2013 and this year. The Vail Pass stage will be replaced by a similar event in Breckenridge. The Vail Pass time trial this year drew thousands to Vail Village and fans also lined the course, even on a less-than-perfect day. Race organizers claim more than 1 million people attended the seven stages of the 2014 event.

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The 2015 Pro Challenge starts with a circuit race in Steamboat Springs. Stage 2 is a road race from Steamboat to Arapahoe Basin.

The third stage takes riders from Copper Mountain to Aspen, with the next day’s event going from Aspen to Breckenridge. The fifth stage is the Breckenridge time trial. The sixth stage will be determined, and the final race will be between Golden and Denver, including a race up and down Lookout Mountain.

The 2015 race is more geographically concentrated than previous years. Previous years’ stages had begun or ended in Crested Butte, Durango, Colorado Springs and Telluride.

Hunter said the 2015 Pro Challenge’s focus on Summit County is a way of rewarding that area for its support. Having four of the seven stages either start or finish in Summit County also gives fans a way to stay in one place and catch multiple stages.

In the Vail Valley, there was a bit of disappointment with the decision to hold tour stages elsewhere in 2015, tempered with a feeling that skipping one year out of five isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In an emailed reply to a question, Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said the Pro Challenge is “invaluable” in building awareness of summer in the mountains.

“It’s an important event for the state of Colorado and participating destinations,” Romer wrote, adding, “I think it’s OK for our communities to miss an occasional year of hosting, as this can build the anticipation and local engagement for the years we do host.”

In an emailed statement from the town, Vail Mayor Andy Daly said he was disappointed Vail wasn’t selected for the time trial, and he hopes the event will be returning to Vail soon. “This is a spectacular event and we wish the other host cities all the best and look forward to a return to Vail in the near future.”

While one summer event went away in 2015, another will take its place. The Vail Commission on Special Events has provided funds for a new cycling event in September.

The Outlier MTB Festival will debut Sept. 25-27 and will feature two days of mountain-bike competition on Vail Mountain. There will be a 50-mile, two-lap cross-country event on Sept. 25, and a two-stage enduro race on the following day. The event will also host a weekend-long bike industry demonstration area.

Still, locals hope the Pro Challenge returns to the Vail Valley as soon as possible, while also holding stages elsewhere in the state.

“There are places we still want to go, in the south part of the state as well as the north,” Hunter said. “And we certainly want Vail to be a participant in future years.”

Romer said he expects that the valley’s summer tourism season will be fine, even without a tour stage.

“We didn’t have the (Ford Park) soccer fields last year and we were fine,” Romer said. “This year, we’ll have the fields back … And not having (a tour stage) one out of six years isn’t bad.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller.

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