A look back at Colorado’s cycling heritage | VailDaily.com

A look back at Colorado’s cycling heritage

Raymond A. Bleesz
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

Special to the Daily | Raymond A. BleeszDavis Phinney, leader of the breakaway on the Georgetown Hill, with a Mexican rider following.

Editor’s note: The recent announcement of next summer’s Quiznos Pro Challenge has put pro stage cycling back into the spotlight in Colorado. Here are some photos from local photographer Raymond A. Bleesz of the Coors Classic, which brought pro cyclists to Vail and Colorado in the 1980s.

EDWARDS, Colorado – The Coors Classic Bike Race of 1984, which occurred in mid-July, took the contestants along the Interstate 70 corridor out of the Front Range area up into the proximity of the Continental Divide, where real altitude – as well as the ultraviolet rays and sun intensity – started to make its effect on the riders . These photos were taken near Georgetown/Silver Plume , Exit 228, a hill of extreme ascent as well as descents – a challenge for man as well as for vehicles.

On that bright, sunny day, the riders attacked at the base of the Georgetown hill. The breakaway, which occurred at that time, more than likely was planned for this strategic location. Altitude favored the teams from Colombia and Mexico, pre-race favorites, as Georgetown’s altitude is at 8,512 feet, and Silver Plume’s at about 9,100.

At the turn of the century, the 600-foot elevation change made for the creation of the Georgetown Devils Gate Railroad Trestle, an engineering feat. The bike race of 1984 was more direct – or, better said, a direct ascent uphill.

However, the altitude challenge proved to be an asset to the fledgling American Stars-7 Eleven and Raleigh team members. Cycling in this country can trace its growth in stature to such stars as Davis Phinney, Ron Kiefel, Andy Hampsted, Alexi Grenwal, David Shapiro and Greg Le Mond.