Pros will roll through Vail, Avon |

Pros will roll through Vail, Avon

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily | Joanne MorganRacers begin the 1984 Coors Classic Vail Criterium. All the American riders wore their U.S. Olympic Team jerseys. The reincarnation of the race, called the Quiznos Pro Challenge stage race, will include a time trial on Vail Pass next August.

VAIL, Colorado – Promoters are calling it the greatest bike race ever to be held on American soil.

One hundred of the world’s best bike racers – including many familiar faces from the Tour de France – will descend and ascend their ways into Vail and Avon during the Quiznos Pro Challenge next August.

An announcement in Denver Thursday revealed that the event will feature 600 miles of road cycling through 11 Colorado cities and towns.

The event is the reincarnation of the Coors International Bicycle Classic, which hosted international road bike racers in the late 1970s and 1980s for two weeks of racing in California, Nevada and Colorado, with stages in Hawaii and Wyoming in some of the years of the race’s existence.

The event was considered America’s national tour, and was at one time considered the fourth largest race in the world after the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana.

Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland, a cyclist, remembers the days when the Coors Classic came through Vail and has high hopes the Quiznos Pro Challenge will have similar effects.

“It was a huge event. It brought thousands of people to Vail – the streets were jammed with local and international guests,” Cleveland said. “It was an incredible experience.”

Cleveland attended the Denver press conference Thursday announcing the lineup for the event, which will take place Aug. 22-28.

Gov. Bill Ritter announced the new professional cycling stage race alongside Lance Armstrong in August, and was at the event Thursday for the announcement of the event’s schedule.

“We are excited to welcome sports fans and the international cycling community to many of Colorado’s most beautiful regions,” Ritter said. “The Quiznos Pro Challenge will provide a majestic tour of many of the state’s natural treasures while becoming the battleground for one of the world’s most intense competitions.”

Big-time cycling is back in the valley

The Vail Valley Foundation is hosting the local portions of the event, after about four years of hard work to bring a major cycling event back to Colorado and the Vail Valley, said Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz.

In 2008, the Vail Valley Foundation had to cancel the Colorado Stage, an inaugural pro cycling stage race that included a road race, a circuit race and an individual time trial, because the event would have cost about $2 million to fund and lacked a major sponsor.

Vail Valley Foundation spokesman John Dakin said that having Vail and Avon as two of the host towns in the Quiznos Pro Challenge speaks to the legacy the valley has in terms of the Coors Classic, the mountain bike World Cups and the skiing World Championships.

“Whenever you get a major international competition, whether it’s cycling, skiing or any other sport, people tend to look at those places in a completely different light,” Dakin said. “It’s exciting. We’re thrilled to be able to be a part of it and help make the dream of returning pro cycling to the valley a reality.”

Frank Mitchell, owner of Moontime Cyclery in Edwards, said it’s been so long since the Coors Classic, so he’s thrilled the valley can host a major cycling event again.

“My take on it is it will be a really good thing for cycling in general,” Mitchell said. “The more pro cycling races in the U.S., the better.”

Sean Petty, chief operating officer of USA Cycling, based in Colorado Springs, said the event means some of the top cyclists in the world will be racing in Colorado – something that hasn’t happened on a professional competition level since the Coors Classic.

“I think this is really going to showcase for the world the beauty of Colorado and some of the epic climbs here,” Petty said. “It should be a huge value to Colorado and to cycling in Colorado.”

Petty said people within the cycling community see these races and want to test out the courses themselves, so he expects the state to gain more attention as a cycling destination because of the event.

“They want to do the climbs the pros are doing. They want to ride them because when you do, it gives you more respect for what the pros are doing,” Petty said.

The excitement surrounding these kinds of events helps rekindle the interest in cycling, Cleveland said.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to present ourselves to the world again,” Cleveland said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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