Shocker: Colorado cancelled.
Shock followed by, well, more shock, disbelief, dismay, alarm, panic, list goes on.
The 2016 edition of the wildly popular US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado has been cancelled.
While the financial issues around a lack of sponsor dollars have been present since day one, the race itself received the full adulation of Colorado fans. I had the wonderful privilege of covering the race for the first three editions and it was a spectator love fest from the very first stage in Red Rocks.
Roadsides were packed, summit finishes were mad houses, the crowds were bigger and more enthusiastic than at the Tour of California and as a 28 year resident in Cali, I hate to say that but it’s true.
Sadly, fan support did not lead to sponsor support and ultimately that’s the real shock. The failure of a popular event in a cycling crazy state with a long history of two wheeled obsession just dramatizes how shaky the sport is, in terms of sponsor money.
Apparently the race lost around $20 million over its five year history. After father and son investors Rick and Richard Schaden gave up running the event, nobody with a marketing budget stepped up to fund the event.
Which seems incredible but while the race benefited Colorado businesses and tourism with an impact estimated at $120 million, it wasn’t attractive to any business company in terms of sponsorship. It also proves how pathetic my math skills are because I just don’t see how these things add up — or don’t.
That said, one smart sponsor idea has already surfaced for Colorado: let marijuana provide the funding for the race. A story in the Washington Post claimed that pot sales in Colorado hit $700 million. The commercial tie-in is one that any marketing professional would jump on: A high sponsor for a mile high race.
How much of this bad story can be attributed to the never-ending doping conversation and the high profile power struggle between the sports governing body UCI and the most powerful force in cycling, ASO, the owners of the Tour de France? Is finding a motor hidden in a race bike at a cyclo-cross World Championship yet another ugly story dragging the sport down?
Hard to answer those questions but it’s not hard to arrive at the usual conclusion — what a messed-up and mismanaged sport. The popularity of biking on every level is on an inevitable rise but very few business people see any reason to sponsor even a successful, well-run event drawing the best teams in the world to some of the most beautiful mountains to be cheered on by wildly enthusiastic fans.
That’s a fail on too many levels to count. If I’m UCI president Brian Cookson, I look at this disaster and head to the nearest bar — because I’m watching my sport die.
The Tour of California and the US Pro Cycling Challenge were the two big marquee events in pro cycling in North America. Tour of Utah, nice, Gila, cool, but California and Colorado was the show. This demise creates a ripple effect of shit and bad news for riders, teams and sponsors at every level.
Shocked, saddened, bummed out. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why to terrible things happen to awesome stage races?