Aspen will know by Thanksgiving whether USA Pro Challenge will return | AspenTimes.com

Aspen will know by Thanksgiving whether USA Pro Challenge will return

Aspen will find out before Thanksgiving and possibly as soon as early November if it was selected again as a host town for the USA Pro Challenge, race director Jim Birrell said Friday.

Birrell is the managing partner for Medalist Sports, the vendor that operates the Pro Challenge for the owners of the professional cycling race. He met Friday with members of the nonprofit Colorado Association of Ski Towns, which held its fall meeting in Basalt.

Elected officials from Colorado's mountain resort towns wanted to know if they could count on the race remaining in Colorado for the foreseeable future. Birrell said the sport of bicycle racing in general and the USA Pro Challenge specifically have been well-received by spectators.

"We really see the growth of the sport," he said.

The Pro Challenge and Tour of California are the two pre-eminent events in U.S. cycling, he said. Birrell said as the vendor for the Pro Challenge, he couldn't speak for the owners or make any guarantees about the race's future, but he foresees it remaining connected to Colorado because the state is the "birthplace" of multi-stage racing in the U.S.

"This is where it belongs," Birrell said. "This is where it's going to stay."

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The event spurred a $100 million economic impact for the state in 2013, according to a video presentation made for about 30 elected officials and government staff members attending the Colorado Association of Ski Towns conference. It requires between $10 million and $12 million annually to put on, Birrell said.

Comments about the event from the resort towns represented at the meeting were generally favorable. Many attendees were eager to learn if their towns would be selected to host the race in 2014. Birrell wouldn't give any hints but said an announcement could be made in early November.

Aspen has hosted the race each of the three years of the race. Its role figured prominently this year when it hosted a circuit race along with Snowmass Village on opening day. The second-day stage started in Aspen before climbing Independence Pass. Well-run events and a good crowd in Aspen helped boost its chances to host future states, USA Pro Challenge CEO and Co-Chairman Shawn Hunter told The Aspen Times in August.

"We're already talking about how we can incorporate Aspen into the 2014 route," Hunter said at the time.

Race fans also will be pleased to know that the race organizers are negotiating with NBC for expanded television coverage of the 2014 race. NBC Sports Group presented 23 hours of coverage in the U.S. this year, but some spectators felt the coverage was abbreviated recaps of the day's races. Birrell said that in addition to more domestic TV coverage, there also would be a push to expand online coverage for desktops, mobile devices and tablets.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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