When the news came last week that the USA Pro Challenge cycling event would return to Colorado Springs as part of its 2014 tour, the local reactions ranged from relief to excitement.
After the snub of a year ago, when the Pro Challenge organizers decided to focus their 2013 schedule more to the north, the local cycling community learned the hard way never to assume that Colorado Springs would have a guaranteed spot somewhere among the race's venues.
Certainly, being left out last year wasn't the result of any past failures on this city's part. When the Pro Challenge was born in 2011, the entire focus — including the global TV coverage — was on Colorado Springs for the opening prologue time trial, from Garden of the Gods down Colorado Avenue to downtown. And the city represented itself well with numerous subsidiary events.
Then, in August 2012, the event returned for a glorious Friday afternoon. The stage began in Breckenridge, came across South Park, through Woodland Park, down to Manitou Springs and the Garden, capped by a truly enthralling three-lap circuit route between downtown and Colorado College. Anyone who saw that finish in person surely would've thought the Springs' place among the host cities was secure.
Now we know differently. So even though we'll have a start-to-finish circuit race in 2014, reportedly including the Broadmoor in some way, maybe it won't be back in '15.
And you know what? That's OK. Other cities, such as Fort Collins and Boulder, also have supportive cycling communities and deserve their opportunities.
There's another message here, and we shouldn't ignore it.
We don't have to wait around and hold our collective breath every year, staking our hopes on when the Pro Challenge will bless us with another day in the sun.
We can do better. We can have our own annual event, perhaps not with a cadre of Tour de France entrants but with thousands of local and visiting cyclists — plus, many of those outsiders spending nights and money here.
That opportunity was offered to the city in early 2012, with an organizing group hoping to replicate a highly successful event in Tucson, Ariz., which had grown to 9,000 participants. In fact, you still can find a Facebook page for "Tour of Colorado Springs," even using the planned date of Saturday, June 30, 2012, along with a logo, and describing it as "a world class cycling event attracting cyclists of all ages from around the state of Colorado and throughout the United States."
The race, as conceived, would have covered 105 miles, with shorter versions of 40 and 80 miles for less-accomplished entrants. Its planned route, with a start-finish downtown, would have looped the area from The Broadmoor to Fountain, up to Black Forest, through the Air Force Academy and Garden of the Gods. Fort Carson already had given initial approval for having the route go through the Mountain Post.
The group making the proposal — hardly strangers, led by former KOAA Channel 5 general manager David Whitaker — gave a presentation to City Council and even had initial support from Mayor Steve Bach. Soon, however, that support faded amid concerns that such an event would cause too much disruption and create possible liability issues, along with the fact that organizers were asking the city to cover perhaps more than $80,000 for police presence.
In other words, short-sightedness prevailed.
That same idea still is out there, with huge potential. If the one-day Copper Triangle each August (Copper Mountain to Leadville, around to Vail and back to Copper, covering 78 miles) can draw 3,000 riders and their friends/significant others for overnight stays, what's stopping Colorado Springs from having our own special event?
The answer is obvious. Nothing.