Lance coming to Vail |

Lance coming to Vail

Cliff Thompson
Tour de France overall leader Lance Armstrong, left, waves to spectators as he poses with American movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger prior to the 11th stage of the race, Thursday, July 17, 2003, in Toulouse, southwestern France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Wanna see five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong race?

It should be easy this year – you won’t have to go any farther than Vail. He’s committed to riding in the Vail Rocky Mountain Classic professional race Labor Day weekend in one of his few North American appearances.

The race is expected to attract up to 300 riders – some fresh off the Tour de France – and thousands of visitors to the Vail area. It’s part of the 2004 Pro cycling Tour which will also run races in Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Armstrong’s presence will be a catalyst for the event, said Frank Johnson, executive director of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau.

“It’ solidifies the Pro Cycling Tour for Labor Day,” he said. “He’s obviously the biggest name in cycling. Having him committed to participating in this event will go a long, long way toward helping finish the fund raising that needs to be done to make this an extraordinary event.”

“We are delighted that Lance will be racing in this inaugural Pro Cycling Tour event in Vail,” added David Chauner, president and chief executive of Threshold Sports, producer of the Pro Cycling Tour. “This is a fantastic opportunity for the Vail community and for cycling fans from around the U.S. to witness one of cycling’s greatest champions fresh after his epic Tour de France performance.”

More important is the fact that Armstrong will attract corporate sponsors. The event will require $1.5 million or more to produce and much of the money will come from sponsors. Armstrong has attained hero status for his Tour de France performance and for his comeback from testicular cancer.

By the time the Vail races occur he will have had a chance to become the only six-time winner of the grueling French bike race. That 3,400 kilometer ((2,125 miles) race takes nearly a month and is the world’s premier cycling event. He’s won it so many times cycling wags are calling it “Tour de Lance.”

But the Pro Cycling Tour in Vail will feature more than just Lance Arrmstrong. It is also supposed attract the best men and women’s cyclists in the world to compete on road courses for two days in Vail.

The weekend will kick off Sept. 3 with a 100-mile amateur race from Denver’s Invesco Stadium to Vail. Professional races will begin Sept. 4 with circuit races throughout the area and will conclude with a men’s and women’s pro circuit race in Vail Village.

The Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau is working with Legacy Sports to produce the event. The Labor Day weekend is traditionally a slow period for business.

“Over time this could grow into an event that makes Labor Day weekend,” said Johnson. “We don’t have a lot of regular leisure visitors. This give us a hook to attract significant numbers of people.”

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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