Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong officially announced the inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge set to take place next year from August 22-28. The seven-stage event, starting and finishing in Denver, Colorado, will be managed by Medalist Sports LLC and takes a prominent place on the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar as a 2.1 level event.
The announcement was made at a press conference held on the front steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building in front a crowd of approximately 1,000 people convened to later take part in a social bike ride lead by Armstrong, who announced the ride via Twitter several days prior.
While the Quiznos Pro Challenge will start and finish in Denver the details of the stage race were limited. Ellen Kramer, chief of communications for Quiznos, noted that the organization recently opened the bidding process for cities interested in hosting a start or finish during the stage race and they will begin reviewing those bids on Thursday, August 5.
According to Kramer, Quiznos heard about the possibility of an international stage race coming to Colorado and contacted Governor Ritter with a sponsorship proposal. When asked about the length of the Quiznos commitment to the race Kramer said, "Long term, no specific years. Years to come."
Governor Ritter added that the Colorado Tourism Office has an understanding with the bike race and will provide an undisclosed amount of support. Furthermore, it is undetermined if Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation will have a specific relationship with the race.
A stage race in Colorado has been under discussion for years but has never quite came to terms. The proposed event was thought to mimic that of the former Coors Classic held between 1979-88 and considered one of the toughest events in the world in its day.
Armstrong expressed an interest in bringing a stage race, as esteemed as the former Coors Classic, back to Colorado. He met with Governor Ritter last year to build support for a proposed event in 2011.
During the press conference, Armstrong remembered a ride he went on during his time spent in Aspen, recovering from broken his collarbone last year. He said that he questioned why there was not a UCI-sanctioned event in Colorado in light of the current crop of American pro riders and the younger generation of riders coming up. Armstrong said that thought prompted him to call Governor Ritter.
When asked if he would compete in the Quiznos Pro Challenge next year Armstrong said, "I'm thinking about it. My days in top-level European cycling are done. But I can't say I won't do events that help causes that I care about. We'll never say never."
The UCI-sanctioned event is welcomed by USA Cycling's Chief Executive Officer Steve Johnson after a three-year national economic struggle that saw the cancellation of the Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri, both managed by Medalist Sport, LLC.
"An event like this brings our sport to the people and this event will be responsible for future champions," said Johnson referring to the fact that people who saw the Coors Classic go by are now champions in the sport of cycling.
Prior to the announcement of the event date and title sponsorship as the Quiznos Pro Challenge, it was informally addressed as the Tour of Colorado. However, the Tour of Colorado is already in existence as a trade name for a series of cycling events registered by Sand Creek Sports, Inc.
"An event like this needs to provide a return on investment for the sponsors [Quiznos]," said former promoter of the Coors Classic Michael Aisner. "Using a name like the Coors Classic or the Quiznos Pro Challenge puts a sponsor in better light and the race can't be branded something else."
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