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Betting on a bike race

Cliff Thompson

Vail apparently is vying for the right to be mentioned next year in the same breath as the Telluride Bluegrass and Aspen Food and Wine Festival.

The Town Council has decided to pay $100,000 to the promoters of professional bicycle race, the Professional Cycling Tour, who say they’d like to have Vail host an event over Labor Day weekend 2004 – an “icon” event, they say, like the bluegrass festival, that would fill the town with visitors.

The promoters say the race could consist of a Denver-to-Vail race the first day, a Vail-Beaver Creek circuit race the second day and a final criterium in Vail Village.



“This is exactly the type of event the town needs,” Town Councilman Greg Moffet says of the race, which would be called the Rocky Mountain Classic.

It’s a bold move, indeed, for a town forced last year to pare nearly $1 million from its budget due to declining sales-tax revenues.



Rick Chastain of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, meanwhile, says may take an additional $300,000 from public and private sources to court the event, which has an expected budget of up to $1.6 million.

“(Vail’s contribution) gives us the the funding we need to go out this summer and use the 2003 cycling season to promote the 2004 event,” Chastain says. “We’ll be able to announce it to the corporate community and begin public relations and advertising.”

Another bike race, the Coors Classic, drew thousands to Vail Village in the late 1980s before the company withdrew its sponsorship.



Chastain says Vail and the surrounding area could reap significant economic benefit during the three-day event, which he estimates will fill 20,000 hotels rooms, generating $8 million in lodging alone. The area also could receive the benefit of a one-hour show on the Outdoor Life Network possible coverage in major print media, as well as cycling publications.

Chastain says the event could become self-supporting by as early as 2006

The Professional Cycling Tour has three races in the United States – in New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco – where as many as 350 racers compete for as much as $2 million.

A matter of demographics

Chastain says attracting the tour here has been more a matter of demographics than money.

“The road cyclist (as opposed to the mountain-biker) has demographics that very closely match those of our ideal summer customer,” Chastain says. “They have an annual income of $85,000, are 35 to 47 years old, have a high propensity to travel, hold managerial positions and are frequent Internet users.”

Another piece of the puzzle was provided by the Colorado Tourism Bureau, says Chastain, along with a survey of subscribers to publications by Rodale Press, which publishes Runner’s World, Bicycling and Men’s Health.

“Colorado was the No. 1 place they wanted to visit next,” Chastain says. “This is our demographic.”

More important to the overall effort, Chastain says, has been the leverage Vail has from its winter marketing efforts. The tour lends itself to promoting Vail, too, he says, and the resort could be promoted at each of the cycling tour’s other venues.

“It’s a marketing platform what will allow us to use other events as a tool for promoting Vail. We’ll take it to Manhattan in August when it’s 100 degrees,” Chastain said. “We’ll do the same in Philly and San Francisco.”

“As a community, we have not aggressively recruited these (summer) events,” Chastain says. “The Vail Valley, as a destination, has such value in the marketplace that we can attract a very strong schedule of major events.”

Many of the events have had commitments of just one year, however, and have revolved around world championships. The Profession Cycling Tour promises Vail exclusive designation as the official resort of the tour.

Tour de Lance?

With luck and the proper financial incentives, Chastain says, the Professional Cycling Tour even could entice Lance Armstrong, now a four-time winner of the Tour de France. Armstrong has participated previously in two of the company’s other races, in New York and San Francisco.

Armstrong, a cancer survivor, also is a supporter of a local professional kayaker Brad Ludden’s First Descents, a camp for young adults who have contracted cancer.

Chastain says he and others will be hitting the road soon to spread the word and try to drum up corporate sponsorships, which, after three years of decline, are beginning to improve.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com.


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