USA Pro Challenge brings thousands to Vail for pivotal stage

Crowds of spectators line the the streets of Vail Village to watch the start of Stage 5 of the USA Pro Challenge Friday in Vail.
Dominique Taylor | |

VAIL — The Vail Valley loves it when company comes and wants the USA Pro Challenge to return early and often.

“This race gets coverage in more than 160 countries,” said Al White, Colorado’s state tourism director. “It’s a great platform to showcase all the wonderful travel opportunities we have in Colorado. Our mountain splendor is being broadcast to hundreds of millions of people around the world, some of whom have never heard of Colorado.”

Look quickly and you’ll spot banners reading, “Colorado: Come to Life.” That’s the state tourism department’s new ad campaign, and it’s working better than any campaign ever has, White said.

The return on investment pours $228 into the private sector for every $1 spent on the ad campaign, White said.

To get a front row seat you could either spend millions of dollars to be an event sponsor, or you could join Nancy Fox and Joanie deBever’s Cougar Troop. They drove from Boulder and spent the night in Vail, leaving their husbands in Boulder to work. By 9:15 a.m. they were ensconced in their lawn chairs in front of the starting line, waving signs that pledged their allegiance to Jens Voigt.

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Speaking of good locations, the Colorado Cheesesteak Co. is Pete Colarusso and Chris Schino’s new local business. Colarusso has been in the bar business for 22 years, and either karma or great planning located them next to the New Belgium Brewing beer tent.

“Life is all about relationships and this is a good one,” Colarusso said.

All kinds of people were wearing bicycle gear, some better than others, and some proclaimed their devotion to certain competitors or teams. It’s a lot like Nascar fans saying they love Jeff Gordon because they drive a used Chevy and can turn left.

Adam Leuck and his crew from the Vail Valley Foundation laid 60 feet of street banners near Friday’s starting line. The flag from every competitor’s home country was on one, along with banners proclaiming that the World Alpine Ski Championships are coming to town in 2015.

They did the same thing two years ago when Vail hosted a time trial. It was Vail Valley Foundation boss lady Ceil Folz’s idea. She had this particular epiphany a few years ago when she was visiting a Bogner store in Garmisch, Germany. That Bogner store had a carpet with countries’ flags woven into it. She took a picture of it and handed it over to Leuck with instructions to do something wonderful with it. And so they did.

Students of history will recall the Coors Classic and the Vail criterion. Lots of people might think they’re among Vail’s elite, but Vail’s true Powers That Be had a spot on John and Diana Donovan’s porch, where they had a close-up look at spectacular crashes.

Brandie Martin is with the Steadman Philippon Center. She and some other Steadman folks were camped at the bottom of the stairs that pour people onto Bridge Street. They were explaining bicycling injuries to people who have either suffered a few, or were about to.

Clavicle fractures are the most common, along with something called acromioclavicular separations. That’s when you fly over your handlebars and hurt your shoulder. Or your hands and wrist. But when people walked up to their booth and said, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” not once did the Steadman crew say, “Don’t do that.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail

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