(Not the) Tour of Colorado

Much chatter in The Denver Post, VeloNews.com and elsewhere about an eight-day pro stage race that may be coming to Colorado in 2011.

With the Tour of Missouri spiked, there’s a window opening in the August-September time frame, and among those said to be planning to dive through it are Gov. Bill Ritter, Medalist Sports and some carpetbagger from Texas who likes hanging out in Aspen when he’s not falling off his bike in France. An official announcement is expected next week.

I’m told that the players are calling their project, in casual conversation at least, the “Tour of Colorado.” Thing is, there already is a Tour of Colorado, a series that’s in its third season. Sand Creek Sports honcho Andy Bohlmann owns the name — he says he registered a trade name in 2005 with the state of Colorado and has sought to trademark it — and the domain name as well. Andy says further discussions of financial recompense have yet to bear fruit; I’ve not rung up the Medalist guys, reasoning that if they won’t talk to VeloNews about the matter, they sure as shit won’t talk to me. But Andy and I are old pals.

Andy and his family have put on a lot of races around here over the years, on road and off, and if they’ve become insanely rich from doing so I have yet to see any evidence of it. So while I’m as happy as any velo-weenie at the thought of top-level road racing returning to Colorado after all these years, I hope these big dogs don’t piss all over a grass-roots guy in the process of making it happen.

More as it develops.

30 Responses to “(Not the) Tour of Colorado”

  1. 1
    james:

    Patrick,
    I wouldn’t worry about the name “Tour of …” since I have yet to see the Tour of California actually leave its sedate ‘route’ during the ‘race’s’ brief life. How many times can you finish a stage racing around the State Capitol? Clockwise in odd years, counter-clockwise in even years? I was hoping that with the change in the schedule they would actually take the race somewhere interesting. However this year they failed in that respect miserably. Nice stage along the foothills of the Central Valley, right? Love the scenery of the brown fields and oil wells? So 1950s California. Maybe next year they will actually climb something resembling a real mountain??
    Anyway I doubt that Andy will have much to worry about simply because even with some “Texas connections” the race is DOA. Unless it has something on offer that is truly epic - see the Celestial Seasonings races a few years ago - not many people will care. See “Tour of Georgia” and “Tour of Missouri” for example. Heck, don’t they still have something called the “Tour of Texas” which races around select liquor, gun and fat chick boutiques? Or was that a really strange Bobke flashback?

  2. 2
    khal spencer:

    Coors Classic and Celestial Seasonings revisited?

  3. 3
    Larry T.:

    The first big-time (at least in the quality of the field) pro bike race I ever saw was the Coor’s Classic in NorCal back in 1986, the final year of Bernard Hinault’s career and of course the year Greg LeMond had won his first Tour, so I can’t say anything but “wouldn’t that be WONDERFUL?” about any race coming back to CO. I saw the final version of the Coor’s in Colorado as well as the World’s there in 1986. While of course the route will never be as challenging as the big Euro tours (Davis Phinney won the last Coor’s and he wasn’t built like Andy Schleck or Alberto Contador) they could probably come up with some dramatic scenery to race over as they did in the past. Depending on the dates, some Euro pro teams might come over as they used to do in the old daze. BigMig came over to CO once to do some training before the World’s were on Colombia so who knows? If BigTex can get some attention from the money-bags it’ll take to pull it off, more power to him, I’d rather read about that than doping investigations any time! I’m not going to hold my breath but it would be great to see at least semi big-time stage racing come back to Colorado, especially as the Tour of California routes, despite their calendar change have been pretty lame.

  4. 4
    khal spencer:

    Can I suggest a stage in Northern New Mexico for this new Tour de Colorado: Start in Taos (ca. 6200 ft), ride up NM 522 to Questa, east on NM 38 through Red River (8700 ft) and up the steep side of Bobcat Pass (9900 ft), turn east at Eagle’s Nest and follow US 64 down to Cimmaron (6400 ft), do a loop around Cimmaron, back up US 64 to Eagle’s Nest, south on US 64 through the Moreno Valley (ca. 8000 ft), climb up the steep side of Palo Flechado Pass (9000 ft) and then descend back into Taos along 64. That should be about 140 miles and some serious climbing. If that is too tame, could keep going through Taos and ride up through Arroyo Seco and finish in the Taos Ski Valley near the base of Wheeler Peak.

    Anyone want to try out the course?

  5. 5
    khal spencer:

    Oh, yes. That last leg would bring you back to 9200 ft and add about 21 miles.
    http://www.vtsv.org/

  6. 6
    md anderson:

    Sounds like a knee breaker khal. I always thought a “Route 64″ tour would be an excellent multi-day ride. Border to border, west to east across northern New Mexico. Once out of the nightmare that is Farmington there is some awfully pretty country. Dulce, Chama, Hopewell Lake, Tres Peidras, Taos, Eagle Nest, Cimarron, Raton, Clayton. Have been seriously thinking of doing it and getting the husband to sag sometime next year. I’m thinking September to avoid the monsoons.

  7. 7
    Jeff in PetroMetro:

    khal: Get with Andy Bohlmann and make this a one day classic. It can be grown from there over time into a multi-stage event, or just leave it as a one day race for the weekend before the Tour of Colorado (as a tune-up).

    Now that I’m thinking out loud, seriously, make this a one-day race and stick a gran fondo to it–right before the Tour of Colorado. The gran fondo is the money maker/tourism promotion event and brings in the local businesses so they can make money and have some skin in the game.

    Count me in if anyone in the doghaus wants to take my blathering seriously.

  8. 8
    Jeff in PetroMetro:

    Mad Dog Promotions, a subsidiary of Mad Dog Media. Patrick?

  9. 9
    khal spencer:

    Tour de U.S. 64? That does sound like a nice ride. I wonder if the NM Touring Society could be talked into supporting it. You are right–once clear of Farmington, its a gorgeous ride.

    I always thought we had a pretty good bunch of roads up North for a second multiday race, i.e., something to compliment the Tour de la Gila. Could include a Moriarty time trial, the Enchanted Circle loop above, a Los Alamos-Espanola-Abiquiu-Cuba-San Ysidro-Jemez-Los Alamos loop, a Rt. 64 race using some parts of the road you mention above, Sandia Crest climb and some of the roads East of Albuquerque. Just a matter of people being interested.

  10. 10
    khal spencer:

    Jeff, that sounds like a really good idea. Now to show my ignorance, who is Andy Bohlmann? I think whoever in the Governor’s office is in charge of economic development should also get a call.

    Assuming my back and shoulder heal, I’ll be up in Red River on 11 Sept. for the annual Destruction of the Knees event, i.e., Red River Century. Wonder if their C of C would be interested.

  11. 11
    khal spencer:

    Oh, duh…read Patrick’s original post. That Andy…

  12. 12
    Jeff in PetroMetro:

    Here’s Andy’s resume: http://www.sandcreeksports.com/akbres1.pdf

    Here’s Andy’s website: http://www.sandcreeksports.com/aboutus.htm

    Northern New Mexico isn’t his neck of the woods, but he knows more about race promotion and organization than anyone else I’m aware of.

  13. 13
    Patrick O'Grady:

    Jeez Louise,

    You guys are into bringing the pain. I rode some of that country back when I was living in Española and Santa Fe. The High Road to Taos via Truchas, the Santa Fe Hill Climb; the Sandia Crest Hill Climb (and its dirty cousin, the Watermelon Mountain Classic); Bernalillo to Cuba; the Santa Fe Century; the Moriarty ITT more times than I care to think about; the Tour de Los Alamos; the rollers from La Puebla to Abiquiu. … my legs hurt just thinking about it.

    I’ve often wondered why there isn’t some killer racing in northern New Mexico, but I expect it’s due to geography and demographics, same as in Colorado. The racers all live in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces (here it’s Denver-Boulder, Fort Collins and Durango), and so that’s where you find the events.

    This is why you see so many of the NM road racers hitting the centuries in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Red River — the distance is tough, the courses tougher and you can make a race of ’em with enough like-minded individuals. Ken Bostick and John Frey used to punish people at Red River.

    I think Jeff has the right idea: Mate a century/gran fondo to a one-day classic. The punters get to ride one day and watch the big dogs bark the next. But Lord, don’t ask me to promote. I flamed out big-time running small-time cyclo-crosses, singly and in bunches; I’d never survive the attempt to put on a top-shelf road event.

  14. 14
    Jeff in PetroMetro:

    I haven’t put on a race in 20 years, but I keep toying with the idea.

    Practically speaking, I ain’t puttin’ on a Northern New Mexico pro road race preceded by a gran fondo with three choices of distance, sag service, excellent local food, and equally excellent local booze–by remote control from the PetroMetro. But damn, it’s a great idea.

    Khal, by geography, and because you started it, I think you’re El Jefe for this one. Should you choose to accept, I see a lot of hours with little or no pay in your future.

    There’s precedent for growing a simple event into a monster out in the middle of nowhere–The Hotter N’ Hell 100 in Wichita Falls, Texas. http://www.hh100.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
    However, it was locally grown.

    Know anybody in Taos who’s interested in running with this?

  15. 15
    khal spencer:

    I’m seriously thinking of taking early retirement from the Bomb Factory. So not this year, thanks, but might seriously consider it for my next career.

    As Patrick said earlier, there are serious demographic issues for running races in NNM. Translated, that means all the well off honkies with expensive bikes live in Santa Fe-Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces. Many of the folks up north consider us a nuisance. Its still a target rich environment though. If the CO stuff comes to pass, a Gran Fondo seems like a good idea. Or shit, even if it doesn’t.

  16. 16
    Larry T.:

    I think the whole CO deal rests on the involvement of BigTex. If he’s busy defending himself against the Landis allegations or public sentiment turns overwhelmingly against him, the idea goes nowhere. Even with a mean, clean and motivated BigTex behind the thing, unless HE’S going to bankroll the project, who’s going to stick their political neck out and push for this idea? The average CO citizen doesn’t want “his/her” road blocked off for a silly “by-sickle” race. Heck, some of our hotel friends in Italy hate the Gran Fondo’s and Giro because access to their hotel is closed off for the day, especially the ones with places along the route rather than anywhere near the start or finish — and this is a culture that understands and reveres cycling!
    And the talk of NM? I have to admit to zero knowledge of the place but these kinds of events require LOTS of good lodging and tourist-related infrastructure to get anyone to come out there — and those tourist-biz folks have to see the big potential dollar signs before they’ll even think about letting it happen, let alone promoting or advocating for it. One can count the never-heard-from-again stories about big-time stage races in the US and quickly run out of fingers and toes. Bringing back big-time stage races to the Rocky Mountains would be great to see, but I’m not holding my breath. What’s Michael Aisner doing now? NO other race held in the US has ever had the enthusiasm he showed for the Red Zinger/Coor’s Classic.

  17. 17
    Jeff in PetroMetro:

    No question, putting on a cycling event is a cast iron bitch–T-shirt ride, gran fondo, local crit, stage race. It’s all hard. The events that take on lives of their own in the U.S. have a person or small organization that believes in the cause and moves their CofC or church or Boy Scout troop or cheerleading squad to action. Most events in the U.S. don’t have an associated race. I’m thinking of RAGBRAI and all the different MS150’s.

    T-shirt rides seem to be the easiest to put together and would be a great seed for growing an event. If a group in NNM is into riding and has a favorite route that’s challenging, and gets a local bike shop interested in being the mothership, it can take off. Once the t-shirt ride reputation is established, a USCF event can be attached to it–maybe a crit at the finish area. If that works (the racers like it, the t-shirt riders like it, and the locals like it) and the logistics are feasible, add the road course.

    The thing that’s getting me all fired up about the NNM idea is how awesome the riding is there. I know the money lives in Denver/Boulder/ABQ/Santa Fe, but money will get in the car and drive to a good ride if the ride itself is good and the places to sleep and eat are acceptable.

    As for the Tour of Colorado, it may fly, but one day it will die. All the big stage races in the U.S. do. Giant corporate sponsored multi-stage bike races just aren’t a part of our high fructose corn syrup-with-commercials culture.

  18. 18
    khal spencer:

    The Tour de Los Alamos has been running for over thirty years (it bills itself as the oldest race in the SW). We have not been able to push it to a multiday race lately, even with a Pro-Am field, increasing organization, and the likes of Jeannie Longo showing up to get in some high altitude racing. But community support is building fast and deep, with key folks like Carolyn Zerkle drumming up more sponsors than you can shake a stick at. We did a three event series once in ‘02 or ‘03 (I forget) but that was a bitch for a ragtag bunch of locals to support. I recall driving my 944 Turbo through the mountains at 5 a.m. at insane speeds setting up race signage and checking curves for debris. Now THAT was fun.

    The Albuquerque, Red River and Santa Fe century rides and Tour de Gila are well established. Not sure who or what it would take to push it to the next step, but there are hotels here that fill up during the ski season and go wanting in the summer. The Red River Chamber of Commerce does backflips to support the Red River Century, summer motorcycle fests, and other stuff as it fills up their ski resorts during the grass and flower season. There is money to be made, at least during normal times.

    Timing is critical as well here in del Norte. Anything before June and you could be hit with sustained winds up to 50 mph and snow up 7000+ ft altitude (the Tour de la Gila is far to the south and has a milder spring). Aug-Sept. is the end of the monsoon season but the weather can be spectacular. Anything in between competes with other events.

    I got back from a glorious 4 1/2 hr road ride all over hell and gone in Bombtown, White Rock, and up into the Jemez at 1:15. Its now 3:15 and the clouds have been building in Bombtown and its been raining up at 9000 feet for a couple hours. Last September, the slow riders (that would be me) had to be pulled off the Red River course as all hell broke loose up their mid-afternoon with hail and rain. In 2003 I was descending Bobcat Pass in sleet and folks after me were being rescued in school buses. Would definitely make for some interesting times.

    Yep. We would need a fat cat or two and a lot of support from a good organizer. And it would still be a tough sell.

  19. 19
    Patrick O'Grady:

    Gents,

    It’s a tough hustle, to be sure. La Vuelta de Bisbee was in its 32nd running this year and I know Al Hopper’s found it rough sledding over his many years as race director. Scheduling conflicts abound, as do travel issues — team directors and racers like a nice, smooth run from one side of the country to the other and back again, without a lot of ping-ponging back and forth. And sponsorship is always a bitch.

    As Khal notes, weather is a big problem too. It’s a mystery to me why people insist on scheduling road races in March in Colorado. Ditto April, and occasionally May, as anyone who got snowed out of the Iron Horse will attest.

    For my money, August-September-October is the best time in Colorado-New Mexico. But you have a lot of clowns trying to pile into that meteorological Volkswagen: Indian Market in Santa Fe in late August (ain’t nobody messin’ with no Indian Market); Zozobra gets torched in mid-September (ain’t nobody messin’ with no Zozobra); and so on.

    I hear Taos is suffering big-time in the Great Recession — maybe someone up thataway could be coerced into hosting a classic road event. The terrain is certainly there. But they’re a little short on motel space, IIRC, and getting in and out of the place with team buses, a gran fondo and all the related hangers-on would be a clusterfuck of epic proportions.

    Damn, I’m glad all I have to do is sit around and think about stuff like this instead of executing it. I get tired just cogitating on the topic.

  20. 20
    khal spencer:

    Taos has a lot of little places but no single big destination hotel that I know of. But since I don’t downhill ski, I have no idea what is up at the Taos Ski Valley.

    So I don’t really know how one would pull that off. Taos is definitely a Cat I clusterfuck on any given weekend, as you recall. It always amazes me how we get all 800+ of the Red River crew through there on a September Saturday without anyone ending up as roadkill.

  21. 21
    james:

    Not to rain on this old guy parade but there are a few “issues” that no one seems to have addressed with a sense of reality:

    Jeff mentioned getting a local bike shop to be “the mothership” of some crazy race to draw in 10s of fans, um, I mean ‘racers.’ I’d ask what sort of world he is living in, but my guess is that there are not a lot of bike shops who can afford to “mothership” much of anything more than toilet paper rolls and a few inner tubes. Last time I checked (and it has been 3 years) the running a bike shop business is a quick way to lose a lot of money really pretty quickly. The bicycle business is lots of bells and whistles, but it definitely ain’t for making Donald Trump nervous. Nix that idea.

    Outside of the race start and finish, no other towns will care unless they get a piece of the action. Now I know absolutely 0% of anything about New Mexico - other than the salsa tends to be kick ass! - but I’d be willing to bet that there are not enough towns to make for an interesting race. Sprints at every town center? Double loop-de-loops at each intersection? What is it that you are going to give to BFE, New Mexico (population 12) that is going to get them interested in closing down the streets for a day? Larry alluded to that in his missive. From personal experience, dodging out-of-towners in to see TCWSNBN finish up his ToC career this year, it is not pretty. Cars everywhere, and then with the blocked off streets forcing hundreds (or thousands) or cars onto quiet side streets does not make for happy neighbors. Now imagine that you have Joe Q. Farmer stuck at the end of his 10 mile driveway waiting to go to the store while your piddly little bike race parades by…..at 20 mph. Not a happy sight indeed.

    As for venues, didn’t the UCI put on a few mountain bike world cups at Angel Fire? How did they work out? If memory serves (and this is mountain biking and not road racing), they were not too popular because the fans had to drive for days to get there. So, again alluding to Patrick’s observation. if it is not like a cheap crack whore (i.e. easy in & out) then no one will show up.

    Finally, ever wonder why crits and cross races are so popular? Because they can be put on in a park, industrial complex, trailer park or basement and no one complains. Once you start closing down roads and forcing people to change their routines (even for a day) you run into problems. Here in SacTown we have a marathon on the first Sunday in December. It has been done every year since 1986. Yet, every year if you stand at an intersection which is closed - with police presence! - you will get some nob who bellyaches that their routine of going to church, the mall, store or dog park is ruined for a running race. Thus you have the added problem of asking your course marshals to deal with the absolutely most clueless people on the face of the earth!

    I wish you guys luck if you get this ever off the ground, but I am not going to hold my breath if you don’t mind.

  22. 22
    khal spencer:

    All good points, James. Having said that, there are many roads up here where you would have to wait an awfully long time to count up thousands of cars. Taos, for example. The down side is that often there is not an alternative road.

    People bitched and screamed about the Honolulu Marathon every year as it shut off half of Kalanianaole Highway to Hawaii Kai (a road that probably had as much daily traffic as all of Northern New Mexico on it), but that event brought in thousands of folks filling up local hotels. The few Statler and Waldorfs in East Honolulu were told to STFU and go away. Too much money to be made.

    Personally, I think the challenge to coordinate roads, road permits, closures, hotels, sponsors, and racers for a major event is probably too much or someone would have done it already. As I said, there are courses here that beg to be raced. But the infrastructure and interest is lacking. Silver City seems to have pulled it off and has both climate and topography in its favor (but having vacationed there, the hotels suck). Perhaps success was due to Big Tex racing it.

    A two or three day Gran Fondo might make it. But I have to say, the turnout for the LAB Rally in Albuquerque, which had four days of rides around the Duke City including the Albuquerque Century, a ride up towards San Ysidro, and one up Sandia Crest, was disappointing. Whether due to the Great Recession or whatever, I don’t know. At any rate, I won’t mourn too much. All the more roads for me, O’G, and a few others to bust our knees on.

  23. 23
    khal spencer:

    Um…sorry. Taos was the counter-example. A clusterfuck of cars.

  24. 24
    Jeff in PetroMetro:

    james: Sorry about lack of clarity on my part. The mothership idea is for the t-shirt ride. Just basic promotion of an interesting local route with registration cash coming from regular joe riders (not racers). It can be a financial break-even and, I think, a more fun way to promote a shop than spending money on advertising.

    We used to put a t-shirt ride on in Austin called G.A.S.P. (the Greater Austin to Shiner Pedal). The ride started at a bike shop I worked at and ended at the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, TX. At the end of the day, we bused everyone and their bikes back to Austin after they’d had mass quantities of beer and BBQ.

    From a popular t-shirt ride, a race can be grown around it.

    The gran fondo concept is a lot more highfalutin, but the idea’s the same.

    The race promotion thing, that is a whole other beast, what with the USCF and all. But guys like Andy Bohlmann can come in and attach a race to an already established event.

  25. 25
    Larry T.:

    Gran Fondo by definition is a one-day deal. The roads are most often closed to cars from very early in the am until the afternoon. One big loop with shorter options. Areas in Italy with tourist infrastucture not being used at the time of the event usually love ‘em though as I wrote, some of our friends with hotels not at the start/finish don’t get any extra biz and generally hate ‘em, even if they’re cycling fans, sorta like a MLB fan getting riled up if the local Little League games cause him a detour on the way to get another six-pack or make him late for work.
    Putting on a multi-day, pro stage RACE is a whole ‘nother deal and good luck to anyone (including BigTex) trying to get one of those going here in the land of the Big Gulp and Baconater!
    Colorado would be a wonderful place — at least it was back in the late ’80’s when I saw the Coor’s Classic. I remember I was supposed to drive our tour group in the race caravan (a monster 15-passenger van with bikes on the roof) for my the first time — on the same day Campagnolo’s Jim Ingram rolled their huge GM station wagon trying to keep up with the race — we would likely have been right behind him! THAT would have been a hell of a break-in to caravan driving…I’m glad the plans got changed though now I don’t remember why exactly.

  26. 26
    khal spencer:

    I could see getting permission for rolling closures here, but closing a road all day? Good luck with that. We put on major races in Honolulu (the 1996(?) Tour de Hawaii, annual Dick Evans road race) using rolling closures defined by caravans of police bikes. But nothing closed all day would pass the laugh test there or here. Especially in New Mexico, a Gold Star Open Carry State.

  27. 27
    khal spencer:

    Speaking of the Southwest…
    http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/travel/01Biking.html

  28. 28
    Larry T.:

    The closed road is part of the big appeal of the Gran Fondo though for a lot of bike RACES in Italy, the rolling closure is all they get. We’ve come across plenty of them over the years, there are some signs around warning you but most pay no attention, then suddenly the motorbikes come past (sometimes they’re cops, sometimes just guys on motos waving flags) waving the traffic over. A lead car with “Inizio Gara Ciclistica” (beginning of bike race) on a sign is next, then the race. A car with “Fine Gara Ciclistica” usually is the broom wagon and ends the whole caravan. Since cycling’s a popular sport there, most folks willingly pull over and a lot of them get out and cheer for the racers! Ahhh, the joys of Italia…makes we want to go back already and I’ve not been home for a week yet!

  29. 29
    swell:

    Off topic, but.. this route might be considered.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga72-ASP1uM&feature=player_embedded

  30. 30
    james:

    Jeff, my point still stands: I don’t know many bike shops who will support ANY kind of ride/race in this economy. The one where I plied my trade for 10.5 years was so into touring and transportation that even the thought of commercializing a ride was viewed with disdain. It took a change of ownership to even think about putting our logo on another shop’s team because the margin was so thin. And even after that, we saw maybe 3 customers a month who would do an organized race.
    That is not to say however that it could not be done. I just don’t see any shop taking that on at this time.
    Larry, if memory serves that Campy roll-over was near Downieville on the Sacramento to Reno/Tahoe stage. I remember watching video of it from the shop’s library. Nothing says “cycling in the 80s” more than a huge land yacht with a HUGE Campagnolo sticker plastered across the windshield! Ah, the Coors Classic was great….

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