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.