I feel really bad about this. I’m about to say something terrible, negative, bitter — I’m about to get very dark cloud.
I have zero interest in the Colorado Classic bike race. There, see all that bile I just coughed up? I’m sorry, it feels like a betrayal, I’m a bad person.
Let’s go back to a sunny, more beautiful time in my life before that hateful statement. It was the summer of 2011 and the first year of the US Pro Cycling Challenge, a seven day stage race in cycling-obsessed Colorado.
It was my superb good luck to cover the race for the now sadly defunct Cycle Sport magazine out of London. I grew up in Colorado, went half way thru college there, and while I’ve since spent most of my adult life in Northern California, I always feel at home in the Rockies of Colorado.
I was very, very late to the party of cycling journalism. But I’d done one Tour de France and now I was in Colorado and from stage one to stage seven it was a raucous lovefest. The crowds were massive, smashing even the most optimistic projections.
When the race went over Independence Pass, it was like Alpe d’Huez with fans stacked five deep, screaming and cheering. The stage in Golden basically looked like the entire state population of Colorado had lined the roads.
It was crazy, exhilarating, unforgettable. The race went all over the state, from ritzy resort towns like Aspen and Vail to funky, cool western towns like Gunnison and Durango and Steamboat Springs. It was a freaking blast.
In terms of fan turn-out and excitement, the US Pro Cycling Challenge quickly beat out the more famous and longer-running Tour of California. There was so much pent-up enthusiasm for a genuine pro bike race in Colorado and the cup raneth over.
The party lasted good five years before the sponsor money went away and the race became financially unsustainable. Which seemed bizarre given the intense fan support.
The race died for a year and then was reborn as a smaller, shorter, sadder, scaled back event called the Colorado Classic. And while I’m happy for the existence of any bike race in any form, I just can’t get excited. The magic is gone and in it’s place is some sort of weird music festival meets bike race half-breed. I guess it turns a profit so there’s that.
Now there are just two towns — Vail and Denver, out and backs, lots of laps. No big Rocky Mountains, no tour of state, no Durango, Steamboat Springs, Golden, Gunnison, Colorado Springs, Telluride, Montrose, Fort Collins or Boulder. After all, we can’t get too far away from the music festival — how would you hear the bands?
But you get the music festival so you can drink craft beer and listen to bands like Glass Animals, Cold War Kids and Rainbow Kitten Surprise. Like I said, the race is now financially solvent — it’s just that there isn’t much of a race left.
So I’m left with the memories and now I’m that crusty curmudgeon in the back, whining and wrecking the experience for everyone else. I hate myself and I should just shut up and let the kids have their fun.
The US Pro Cycling Challenge died but it lives on further to the West. The Tour of Utah puts on a genuine seven day stage race with real mountains and cool towns. They even have a hilarious set of promo vids.
Someday I hope to check out the Tour of Utah. I’ve heard good things. I bet it will remind me of a stage race I loved that disappeared.