Armstrong returns pro cycling to Colorado
AP Sports Writer
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado – Lance Armstrong is teaming with Denver-based Quiznos to bring a major international pro-cycling stage race to Colorado next summer.
Armstrong hopes to ride in the weeklong race, titled the Quiznos Pro Challenge. The exact route of the Aug. 22-28, 2011, race has not been mapped out yet, but it will include a mix of mountain, sprint and downtown stages.
The seven-time Tour de France champion told The Associated Press it will run through Denver, which will serve as either the start or finish, and probably Boulder plus other front-range cities and also through towns in the Rocky Mountains.
It will be the first pro cycling race in Colorado since the Coors Classic was the foremost international pro cycling competition in North America from 1979-88.
“It feels like the birth of a new event, but in many ways it’s really the rebirth of an old event,” Armstrong told The AP. “This state has a long, long history of supporting a great American stage race, the first of its kind. A lot of American teams and a lot of great American talent were developed out of that.”
Armstrong is helping to plan the race. Full details regarding his role will be released later.
With the cancellations of the tours of Georgia and Missouri, the Quiznos Pro Challenge and the Tour of California will be the only ones on U.S. soil next year. The August dates of Colorado’s race will fit between the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta, Armstrong noted. The California race is held in the spring.
“The idea is to highlight all the legendary places in Colorado that have a cycling history,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong was joining Gov. Bill Ritter for a formal announcement of the race Wednesday morning at the state capitol before leading citizens on a bike ride through downtown Denver. Both Ritter and Armstrong tweeted Tuesday about their excitement over a big announcement and bike ride.
In his interview with the AP, Armstrong declined to comment about the probe by federal investigators in Los Angeles who are looking at cheating in professional cycling and have shown an interest in him.
The investigation was spurred by accusations from Floyd Landis, one of Armstrong’s former teammates on the US Postal team, in a series of e-mails sent to cycling and doping officials this spring. Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title for doping, said the use of banned substances was common on the team. Armstrong has denied those allegations and has questioned Landis’ credibility.
Armstrong said he understood the questions were going to be asked but politely replied that he had “nothing to say” about the matter.
Armstrong said he believes the Colorado race will draw the world’s top professional cyclists and teams, making it successful enough to become an annual event.
Armstrong, who lives in Aspen, said the idea of returning pro cycling to Colorado came about during a daydream while riding in the mountains a couple of years back. He enlisted Ritter’s help last year unaware that the governor was a dedicated cyclist who had watched the old Coors Classics while a law student at the University of Colorado.
“So, it worked out pretty good,” Armstrong said.
The Quiznos Pro Challenge will be sanctioned by USA Cycling and the International Cycling Union. Course routes, host cities and participating teams will be announced in the coming months.
“The return of a major international stage race to Colorado is wonderful news, not only for the state of Colorado, but also for the continued development of American professional cycling,” Steve Johnson, chief executive officer of USA Cycling, said in a statement.
Armstrong just got back from a week’s vacation in the Bahamas after retiring for a second time from the Tour de France. He has several appearances coming up, including a fundraiser in Steamboat Springs this weekend at the inaugural Ride 4 Yellow for off-road riders contributing to the fight against cancer.
“This month is one month you wanted to lay low,” Armstrong said. “It ends up I’m pretty slammed with some commitments.”
He told the AP he’s also leaning toward riding again in the lung-searing Leadville 100 mountain bike race on Aug. 14, the nation’s highest-altitude endurance test that he won in record time last year.
“I just had my first ride on dirt in about a year,” Armstrong said Tuesday. “So, it’s just trying to get my mountain bike skills back. The other key is altitude. Almost the whole race is above 10,000 feet. I have to make sure I spend enough time in the mountains before I go out.
“I suspect I’ll be there.”