Colorado Springs takes pride in its bike culture, and for good reason. With the Olympic Training Center Velodrome and train-worthy thin air and altitude, our city attracts bikers who want to take their race to the next level.
Now, we have the honor of hosting the first stage of the inaugural Colorado Classic cycling race, which will begin downtown this weekend. The sustainability of these races has been called into question in recent years, after the Colorado-based USA Pro Challenge ceased to exist following its 2015 event, but the Colorado Classic has come up with some new ideas to make money and get an audience, including a full-on festival going strong from Friday to Sunday. But no matter what its future may hold, the Classic’s first run looks to be drawing attention.
This three-day event has attracted men’s and women’s teams from all over the world, and some big names along the lines of American Olympian Taylor Phinney and local Rally Cycling rider Danny Pate. Plus, controversial cycling legend Lance Armstrong has recently announced that he will be attending, though he plans to peddle his podcast rather than pedal his bike.
In addition to prominent American and, specifically, Colorado cyclists, international racers fill out the roster. Most notably, Team Rwanda — whose initial six-year struggle for recognition and success was documented in the award-winning film Rising From Ashes — will be participating, along with Colombian Tour de France finisher Rigoberto Urán, and riders hailing from Switzerland, Italy and beyond. They’ll test their strength, endurance and lung capacity here among our mountains before moving on to Breckenridge and then Denver. In total: 313 miles and more than 20,000 feet of climbing.
For the first stage, both the men’s and women’s races will begin and end on Tejon Street, including a trek down Colorado Avenue and a loop through Garden of the Gods. It’s not a track for the faint of heart, nor a race for the average rider. The Classic has been sanctioned by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and designated as a 2.HC race, which is as high-ranking as you get outside of World Tour races.
The event will coincide with a celebration in Denver’s RiNo district, “Velorama,” which includes live performances by Wilco and Death Cab for Cutie, among others. By occurring alongside a ticketed festival (prices of which range from $45-$50 per day) the Colorado Classic may set itself apart from other prominent world races, and give itself a greater opportunity to succeed. If nothing else, it’s a nice way to reward spectators for sticking it out through 300 miles of tension.