The Colorado Classic, a brand new stage race that replaces the financially failed US Pro Cycling Challenge, kicks off today. The four stage event looks basically like three sprint stages and a “mountain” stage built on a ten lap circuit up Moonstone Road.
Honestly, and I feel bad saying this, I’m not that excited about the Colorado Classic. While I’m happy for the state of Colorado and their amazing cycling fans, this is a boring replacement for what was a fantastic seven day event that ran from 2011 to 2015.
Yeah, I get it, that race didn’t work financially. I can read a profit & loss statement. Somehow, the seven day Tour of California continues on and somehow the Tour of Utah makes money and gains stature as stage race #2 behind Cali.
Allow me to whine for a moment. The Colorado Classic is a new financial model that seeks to share the costs and profits with a music festival and craft arts show. That’s nice. But as Neal Rogers detailed today in CycleTips, the Classic is missing just about everything that made the USPCC awesome.
I’ll just quote Rogers because he nailed it. “The contrast in racing from the USA Pro Challenge is stark. There is no Vail time trial, no ascent of Independence Pass, and no stops in cycling hotbeds such as Aspen, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs, Fort Collins, or Boulder. Instead, organizers are hoping that shorter stages, finishing circuits, and smaller teams light up the race action.”
It feels like they took away my 16oz grass-fed sirloin steak and handed me a cold chicken wing with no sauce. Like instead of the Pinarello with Di2 and carbon rims, I get a Walmart six speed that weights 50 pounds. I’m sure MBA Jonathan Vaughters could convince me, over several glasses of excellent Barolo, that this race is the future of cycling.
I had the chance to cover the US Pro Cycling Challenge for the first three years. It was crazy, exciting, beautiful, inspired, a fantastic mix of terrain that showcased everything in Colorado. Durango was awesome and so was Steamboat and Aspen and Vail, Gunnison and Fort Collins. The crowds on the climbs over Independence Pass and Swan mountain were crazy and so were the parties.
Yes, I get it — the race was deep in the red. It wasn’t sustainable, there were no sponsors coming forward, the coffers were empty. That doesn’t mean I can’t still cry and mourn the death of my favorite stage race.
I’ll take a peek now and then at the Colorado Classic — there’s not even a live Tour Tracker, just highlights? I’ll be sure to read the race coverage and how each stage unfolded. I’ll be happy if Taylor Phinney, Kiel Reijnen or Alex Howes win a stage. But I’d rather be watching California or Utah.
I guess in the end, it’s that the Colorado Classic doesn’t feel like a true stage race. It’s just part of a larger entertain event; it’s not the priority. This could just as easily be the Death Cab for Cutie show with a side order of bike racing. It’s Wilco and some guys in Lycra. Part of the race promo says Rock and Race, it’s a “three day celebration of bike culture.”
That’s all well and good and in fact, as an event, it’s fantastic. Grew up in Colorado, love to be there — but as a multi-stage bike race, I’m underwhelmed and just a little sad.