Pro Challenge skips valley | VailDaily.com

Pro Challenge skips valley

Tejay van Garderen set the fastest time in the 2013 Vail Pass Time Trial portion of the USA Pro Challenge cycling tour. The tour is skipping the Vail Valley for the first time this year.

EAGLE COUNTY — Professional cycling has a long history in the Vail Valley, but not this year. The USA Pro Challenge, a race series now in its fifth year, is for the first time skipping Eagle County. That loss will be felt, but tempered by the reality of an already-busy summer schedule.

At the time of the announcement in December of 2014, USA Pro Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter said the decision not to return to the valley was due largely to the time, money and other resources the community was pouring into the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Despite that king-sized effort, the Vail Valley Foundation, the local organizing committee for both events, had put in a bid for a Vail Pass time trial.

That time trial, which essentially determined the series winners in 2013 and 2014, drew thousands of people to Vail. That event this year is being replaced by a similar time trial in Breckenridge.

While Vail had been the focus during past events, Beaver Creek also played a role in the series in 2013, serving as the stretch run of a race that took cyclists over from Aspen over Independence Pass, through Leadville and Minturn, then the final leg- and lung-busting climb to Beaver Creek Village.

“We’re sorry not to have the Pro Challenge this summer

— we enjoy having them.”Kelli McDonaldEconomic development director, Town of Vail

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'Going to Miss it'

Kristen Pryor, general manager of The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, said past Pro Challenge tours have helped that hotel for a couple of nights during the week of races.

"We'd love to have it back next year — it adds energy to the valley," Pryor said. "I'm going to miss it a little."

On the other hand, Pryor said the Pro Challenge — which has live TV and Internet coverage in both the U.S. and Europe — provides a boost for the whole state.

"There are people who are going to look at Steamboat Springs and think about the Rockies in general," she said.

In Vail, Scott Gubrud, the sales and marketing director for the Four Seasons Resort, said that property isn't likely to feel much impact from not having the event.

"Year over year we're equal, if not better," in terms of bookings, Gubrud said.

Occupancy Numbers

Still, losing the Pro Challenge this year has put something of a dent in the valley's lodging occupancy numbers.

The Vail Valley Partnership — the regional chamber of commerce and tourism promotion group — tracks occupancy numbers around the valley. In an email, Partnership CEO Chris Romer wrote that there's been a dip for the week of the cycling event. On the other hand, that dip in reservations is almost exactly the number of rooms reserved by teams, tour officials and media.

Romer called the media exposure from the event "huge," but added that the event itself "hasn't typically resulted in equally huge overnight visitation from guests."

Plenty of Activities

The overnight guests in town for the next week will still have plenty to do, of course. There are the Saturday and Sunday markets in Minturn and Vail, of course. And town of Vail Economic Development Director Kelli McDonald said there are numerous other events just in town. The World Youth Fly Fishing Championships in the valley wrap up today, and the usual array of in-town and on-mountain activities continue.

"We're sorry not to have the Pro Challenge this summer — we enjoy having them," McDonald said.

That sentiment was echoed by everyone else who commented for this story.

"I hope we have the opportunity to host it again in the future," Romer wrote in an email.

The respect locals have for the Pro Challenge is returned by race organizers. Speaking about the 2015 schedule late last year, Hunter said the valley will be considered for stages in coming years.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

Tour stops

The USA Pro Challenge cycle races this year will stop in:

• Steamboat Springs

• Summit County

• Aspen

• Loveland

• Fort Collins

• Denver