Why the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge WONT include Flagstaff Mountain

Since the host cities announcement last week, everyone in Boulder has been going with of a finish up Flagstaff.  Personally, I think this would be the most awesome thing in the whole world.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen for this edition of the race.

However, the climb does have a good chance of featuring in a future edition of the race.  It is close to the population centers of the state and would create huge buzz and attendance.  Logistically it is a very good choice, since the road is public, but almost all the land along the climb is Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks land.  It would be quite easy to get the route approved if the City is interested (and it should be).  Next is traffic:  There are residents past the summit, but there is also a ‘back way’ to get down the mountain on Gross Dam Road, so there would be a workable traffic plan.

Not This Year

The primary example of what to expect is taken from the Tour of California.  Shawn Hunter is the CEO of USAPCC and former CEO of AEG Sports, which organized the ToC under his direction until last year.  The ToC did not feature a summit finish until its sixth edition, in 2011.  The reason for the delay is the following: Organizers couldn’t afford to make the race too hard.

At first, this may seem like strange logic.  A harder race, and especially a summit finish, is more exciting and should draw more fans.  This may be true, but keep in mind that a big part of a new, world class race like the USAPCC is attracting riders and sponsors.

Many teams spend all year racing in cycling’s heartland, Europe.  Most sponsors of World Tour teams have interests in the US, and are eager to show off their stars on US soil.  It is very good for fans, since they can catch a glimpse of their favorite rider, now that there is such a big race in the central part of the US.  So, the teams want to bring their stars to the race.

Unfortunately, the race is less than a month after the finish of the Tour de France.  The race also conflicts with the Vuelta.  That means most superstars on top form will be racing in Spain, and we will continue to see riders looking to ‘take it easy’ at the USAPCC.  Last year we saw the tour podium and other superstars in attendance.  If the race were too hard, some of these top riders may choose to pass on the race, to the detriment of the fans and the race itself.

Two of cycling biggest stars, Ivan Basso and Andy Schleck finished 33rd and 35th, respectively.  I would argue they came to the race to get some miles in the legs and to get their sponsors some great exposure on US soil.  A hilltop finish on one of the hardest climbs in the area might sound exciting to us, but maybe not to a tired racer after finishing both the Tour and Giro a few months before.

Once the race is well established, riders and teams will start to target the race.  This has already happened to some extent, with American riders for teams with the biggest US interests targeting the race specifically.  (The top 5: Leipheimer [Radioshack], VandeVelde [Garmin], Van Garderen [HTC], Danielson [Garmin], and Hincapie [BMC])  Once the race gains international media exposure and can compete better with the Vuelta, it will attract on-form international superstars and can feature the exciting route we all crave.

About Russell

I have been racing bicycles for a decade. This blog will chronicle my efforts as a Category 2 road racer and lining up with the PROs.
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3 Responses to Why the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge WONT include Flagstaff Mountain

  1. says:

    Hi Russell, thanks for linking to my piece about Flagstaff. Your point is very valid. After last year’s edition of the UPCC Lucas Euser gave the very same reason why a mountaintop finish probably wasn’t included then — “no one said, oh, this is going to be too hard,” when looking at the route. And, after seeing Danielson and Hunter in conversation Monday night near the end of the Tossa event (did you go to that?), I think there’s a better than, say, 30% chance it will be included. I’d make it greater than 50% except that the stage 4 finish into Beaver Creek Village should be uphill, and adding that to the Mt. Crested Butte finish, together with a second pass over Indy, will already toughen the race. I’m looking forward to the rest of the comments on this debate. Thanks for the post.

  2. says:

    Russell, you make some great points, I have no idea about percentage of chance the climb will be included at the end of Stage 6, but I can tell you that on Monday night, I stood asking questions of Shawn Hunter when John Henderson of the Denver Post came up to him and asked, “is there any reason why Flagstaff would not be included as the final climb?” “No,” Hunter responded very confidently. At this stage it is simply interesting, but speculation could be more than just the local riders wanting their local climb to be included.

    I personally believe we have several areas in Colorado that could be thought of as our Alpe d’Huez, or our Tourmalet. I think the organizers continue to test our routes for a good combination. A good stage race should change every year. So whether Flagstaff is included this year or not, all that matters is that people will ask, what is Flagstaff?

    I also believe that the race schedule is part of the discussions when a rider resigns or signs with a new team. Most of the riders know their race schedule by now, adjustments will be made based on injuries and usually the Grand Tour rosters (for 2-4 team members) are decided last minute based on the form of the riders 3-4 weeks prior to the Tour start. That is why rosters are announced last minute, well after we know which teams will be here.

    We will see different teams at the 2012 USPCC, Levi signed with Omega Pharma-Quickstep, last year neither of those now merged teams were here or at ATOC. Maybe they can slip into the spot from the merged Leopard + Radioshack teams. One thing I do know is that the Europeans like racing in American, the best will be back again.

  3. says:

    Also I think that bike racers like to race hard stage races, tired legs or not. I still remember seeing Basso on the start line in Steamboat well before any other rider had shown up, he was ready to race. Also some of the “big names” did not come because they are on big name teams on European soil. Their sponsors may not have interests in the US markets. But that is fine, since we seem to be growing interest from this side of the pond for new sponsors to join as sponsors of this race – and that is really cool. We will see even great numbers of sponsors for 2012. The truth is the high altitude route might keep some of the big names away more than the conflict with the Vuelta, but those whom the route suited best seemed to have come in 2011 (excluding the big name early season Classics riders and the sprinters).

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