The Sand Creek International Classic, the fifth stop on the 2011 US Pro Cross Country Tour (US Pro XCT) is downsizing from a three-day UCI-categorized stage race to a one-day UCI category 2 cross country race for 2011. The Colorado Springs, Colorado, event is also swapping venues for its third edition.
"It looks we are a go for a one-day Pro XCT C2 cross country race," said Race Director Andy Bohlmann to Cyclingnews. "We will also be changing the venue to Palmer Park within the city of Colorado Springs - the most popular place to ride your bike in town."
Organizers cited financial considerations, experience and administrative errors as the reasons for the changes. Despite recent rumors to the contrary, the race will go on, albeit in a reduced, more manageable format for 2011.
"This year, I've trimmed the budget to bare bones, but we meet all the requirements," said Bohlmann to Cyclingnews. "We want to do a really good race and concentrate on it happening again in 2012."
The organizing company, Sand Creek Sports, Inc, applied to the UCI for "XCS" or cross country stage race status for its 2011 race. The application was filed last summer per the UCI's inscription schedule.
"I submitted my dates for June 17-18-19 for 2011. And we had to submit our technical guide, too," said Bohlmann. "It was just a week and a half after our last year's event that we were supposed to submit the technical guide, and our venue director was tied up. I sent a copy of our 2010 technical guide with a note saying it would be the same for 2011 as 2011 except we would start the pro men and women earlier in the day."
"I heard nothing until three days before the UCI Mountain Bike Worlds, when USA Cycling emailed me and asked me for the tech guide for 2011. I just couldn't get our Venue Director to turn it around in three days."
Without the required 2011 technical guide, the UCI denied the "XCS" status. The technical guide is required for stage races seeking inscription.
"The 2011 UCI event inscription information and forms were sent directly to 2010 UCI organizers on April 29, 2010. The deadline for National Federations to submit the inscription requests and technical guidebooks to UCI was July 30," said Kelli Lusk, National Events Director for USA Cycling. "My deadline for organizers to submit everything to me was July 25. Andy submitted his inscription form and incomplete technical guidebook to me on July 24. He had two months to work on his 2011 UCI event inscription and technical guidebook, so to claim his event was denied based on his technical guidebook is stretching it."
Facing the disappointment of not getting stage race status, Bohlmann said, "I think USA Cycling should have gone to bat for us, but I was told that we would only get a one-day race on the Saturday, June 18, and we ended up with a UCI category two cross country race for 2011." The race remains as part of the US Pro XCT although this year, it is not serving as the finals.
Lusk shared her take on how things unfolded. "Andy expressed multiple times prior to my meeting with UCI (at Mountain Bike Worlds) that they did not think they could do the stage race based on finances. He stated he would send an updated technical guidebook, so I sent him a reminder after UCI requested it for review. After I contacted him, he stated they would stick with the one-day format, so I thought that’s what they wanted to do."
In some ways, managing just one day of racing for the US Pro XCT may work out better for the organizers, who struggled to make the race come out in the black in 2010. Going into 2011, organizers are facing the consequences of lower than expected turnouts in 2010, potentially higher inscription costs and race permit fees for 2011, and the withdrawal of some sponsors.
The first edition of the Sand Creek International Classic came about after Bohlmann attended a USA Cycling Promoters' Summit in the fall of 2008. "We noticed there that we could do a UCI race in 2009 for less than we could do a championship event. Since I was in negotiations with Chris Carmicheal about event sponsorship, I went back to him with a proposal," said Bohlmann. "He was game to support us.
Bohlmann was expecting 200 to 225 racers for the 2009 US Pro XCT event in mid-June, but he ended up with 385 pre-registered racers. The last minute extra logistics were challenging, but the future looked bright.
Building on that success, Bohlmann said he knew exactly what he needed to do for 2010. "July is when you have to submit your UCI dates to USA Cycling for the following year. They need time to submit them to UCI and have them review them at Worlds."
Bohlmann wanted to run the 2010 race for the same mid-June weekend as he did in 2009, but was asked to modify his plans. "Kelli Lusk [of USA Cycling] came back to us and asked us to change to July 9-10. We asked why, and they said it would put our race one week after USA Cycling marathon championships and one week before US Mountain Bike Championships in Granby. We wanted to stay on the same weekend we had, but they noted that was the same weekend as the US 24-hour nationals. We ended up going along with the change."
That's also when Bohlmann and his crew stepped up to run a UCI categorized stage race with a Friday time trial, Saturday cross country and Sunday short track. "USA Cycling thought it was a great idea," he said, "and we decided to do a stage race for the elites and amateurs."
Lusk confirmed that she had suggested the date change and was delighted to hear there would be a UCI-categorized elite stage race in the US, but said the decision to require amateurs to do the stage race was Bohlmann's.
As Bohlmann admits, it proved to be a mistake to run a stage race for the non-elites. "We had 152 riders total for the stage race in 2010. We were down 100 riders off what we'd planned, and that's $10,000. The problem was that there was no date coordination. The Mountain States Cup released their calendar with a date that was on top of ours. And there was another, non-sanctioned race in Winter Park on the same weekend. Because USA Cycling has no presence in Colorado on the mountain bike side, there is no coordination of dates among sanctioned and non-sanctioned events."
Bohlmann pointed out that it wasn't just his race that suffered from the date conflict. "The other Colorado races took a hit, too, in terms of the local pros."
"True, we ended up with some Colorado date conflicts, but we tried to work with all the organizers involved – even going as far as granting the Sand Creek Pro XCT the exclusive and last cross country qualification event in Colorado for the National Championships the following week," said Lusk. "They could have attracted a lot more amateur racers had they not imposed the mandatory stage race requirement for them."
There were additional budget considerations, too. In the race's first two years, Sand Creek Sports had sometimes gotten its USA Cycling permit fee waived or its UCI inscription fee reimbursed, but going into 2011, Bohlmann said no one could tell him for sure which fees would be covered.
"In 2009, USAC waived our permit fee of $700. We paid the UCI inscription fee. In 2010, USAC waived the permit fee of $700 and paid the UCI calendar inscription fee which is about $3000. When it came time to help us with inscription fee this year, they couldn't commit which left us with budget questions."
"I assumed I'd have to pay it all and then on top of that in December, the UCI said that all UCI-registered mountain bike teams have to get free entries into UCI races. From what I can figure out, that's $700 worth of entries."
While Bohlmann expressed some frustration with USAC and the process of inscripting UCI races in the US, he wasn't blaming them for the changes to the race. "USA Cycling has been pretty good to me, but they are not always the easiest to work with."
"From 1984 to 1990, I was their Tech Director and I was on the other side, so I know what it's like. I was on the staff when they purchased NORBA."
When asked if the Sand Creek International was definitely on for 2011, Bohlmann said his drop dead date is February 18, and it looks like the race will happen. "I'm very close to making budget." In part, he attributed the positive picture to his organization cutting the total number of promoted racing days from 10 to five in 2011 as well as Kenda USA for coming onboard with additional sponsorship.
He noted that former title sponsor Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) would remain involved at a local level, but was pulling out of race title sponsorship to pursue other marketing directions.
The final budget-cutting measure helping to keep the race alive is moving the race venue to Palmer Park. "The race was held the past two years at Cheyenne Mountain Park, which is just south of Colorado Springs city limits. We had a great venue, but it was expensive."
In 2010, the race attracted competitors and media from 36 states and six foreign countries. Using Colorado Springs Visitors and Convention Bureau numbers, it is conservatively estimated that there was a $200,000+ of local economic impact. The race in 2009 generated about $150,000. In another four months, the numbers will tell what the impact of the 2011 edition will be.