Vail lands Pro Cycling Tour |

Vail lands Pro Cycling Tour

Four-time defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who in 1999mountain biked in the Vail Valley and was reportedly shopping for realestate in the area, could be coming back as a road racer.Rick Chastain, director of event marketing for the Vail Valley Chamber andTourism Bureau, says Armstrong is “very likely” to compete in a Pro CyclingTour event scheduled for Labor Day weekend in 2004.Last year, Armstrong, a cancer survivor and the Sports Illustrated Sportsmanof the Year, raced in two PCT events the inaugural New York City CyclingChampionship and the San Francisco Grand Prix.Those two races are held in early August and mid-September, respectively,after the grueling three-week Tour de France in July. The other events inthe PCT are the Wachovia Cycling Series races in Lancaster, Pa., Trenton,N.J., and Philadelphia in early June.The PCT, sanctioned by USA Cycling, offers an overall $300,000 purse andlinks all of the nation’s top road races, attracting top domestic andinternational pros, including Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service Team,Chastain says the Vail event, which will include a “grand fondo”participatory citizens’ ride from Denver to Vail the first day, a VailVillage criterium the second day and a 110-125-mile valley-wide circuit thethird day, is perfectly positioned to draw Armstrong. Not only will it beafter the Tour, Chastain says it’s two weeks before the World Championshipsin Canada, and Vail’s high altitude makes it a perfect training race for theworlds.”He competes in two of three (PCT events), and I think it’s likely he’llcompete (in Vail),” Chastain says.Financially, Chastain says it will take about $350,000 to $400,000 in cashand in-kind contributions from various local public and private entities tosecure the Vail event.He says he anticipates about an $8 million economic impact for the valley,with crowds of between 15,000 and 20,000. That’s small by PCT standards,with races like the San Francisco Grand Prix drawing 400,000 spectators lastyear.Chastain hopes to incorporate other citizens’ rides, tours and bike expos toexpand the race into a 5-to-7-day annual event with live regional televisioncoverage on the Denver NBC affiliate. For next year’s race, there are noplans for live TV, but a highlights show will likely air in the Denvermarket, Chastain says.Perhaps one of the biggest benefits would be Vail’s marketing andsponsorship rights at the other PCT venues, all major markets for Vailvisitors.Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi, an avid road biker, says Chastainapproached the county at a work session, seeking funds to lure the tour,although no formal request has been made. He is highly supportive of theevent.”We’re trying to promote high-altitude sports, and road biking reaches outto a lot of people,” Menconi says. “This valley has some of the greatesttraining rides around, with the amenities when you get off your bike.”The television exposure, spectator and marketing potential are veryattractive, Menconi says.”This is the top-shelf pro cycling tour in the United States, and to tieinto New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia helps promote the right thingsabout this valley,” Menconi says. “If you look at all the demographics ofcycling, it’s basically (people with) high incomes in their forties andfifties.”Vail, often seen as a ski-racing Mecca, has some history with cycle racingas well. The town hosted two World Mountain Bike Championships, both ofwhich drew substantial crowds.The 1994 Worlds drew a record crowd of 20,000 to Vail, but the last timethere was a road race in town, June of 1991, the Vail Village Criteriumattracted a more modest 5,000 spectators to watch legends like DavisPhinney.Phinney finished second in the criterium that year as the born-again RedZinger Bicycle Classic came back to town for a short-lived revival. But whenthe Zinger was part of the massive Coors Classic stage race in the 1980s,Phinney won the Vail Village Criterium three times.Vail officials have struggled for years to land a marquee event to anchorthe Labor Day weekend and close out the summer season in style. With therecent surge in the popularity of road racing in the wake of Armstrong’sunprecedented championship run, the PCT might just be the ticket.Bryan Jew, assistant managing editor of Boulder-based VeloNews, says Vailcould expect a solid spectator base along the lines of what it enjoyed inthe 1980s.”(A PCT event in Vail) would probably draw the same crowds that you saw forthose races,” Jew says. “I think you’d see the same core group of cyclingfans from the Boulder/Denver area.”

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