Broncos and Rockies fans endure freezing temperatures at Invesco Field and blazing sun at Coors Field to watch their favorite athletes. Professional cycling fans are just as intense. They wake up at 4:30 am in July to follow the mountain stages of the Tour de France on television. They will stand in the rain for hours to see their favorite pro-cyclists speed by at arm’s length.
What’s different about pro-cycling from the traditional American sports? Watching pro-cyclist athletes is free. The action takes place outside on the road. These elite athletes pedal by our favorite ice cream shops, our homes, and the hills and mountains in our backyards. In many ways pro-cycling is a community sport.
With the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (USAPCC) coming to Golden, we asked Johan Bruyneel, a two-time Tour de France stage-winner and coach who has guided his teams to nine Tour de France victories, author, and Manager of the American Team RadioShack, his thoughts on how the race benefits the Golden community. Please comment below with your own ideas on what bringing pro-cycling to Golden means to you. Then join us on the morning of August 28th at the USAPCC stage start in downtown Golden!
What are the benefits to a community from hosting a pro-cycling race?
Well I think Colorado is a perfect place to hold a professional cycling race, especially one of the caliber of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The terrain, summer climate and enthusiasm from the residents are ideal. Knowing the management of Medalist Sports, this will be another excellent and professional race.
Now when you ask me specifically about the benefits to a community, I think it has to go beyond the fact that the residents simply like cycling. A few that come to mind:
- Having a cycling race has shown a positive economic impact on the states and the towns. With teams, race officials, and visitors coming, businesses see an increase in profitable business. [Author’s note: race officials estimate a $38 million economic impact to Colorado from the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.]
- I think it also provides a sense of community. What I mean is that when a cycling race starts or finishes in the town, it usually is a source of pride for the people living there. It’s an opportunity for the residents to show off their town to riders and visitors. We go to many towns and have people – who are not necessarily cycling fans – come to the bus and welcome us to their town. It’s a nice way to unite a town behind one specific event (often this is the biggest event for that town during the year).
- There is no other sport that showcases the beauty of a country, state, city or region as well as cycling. It’s not played in a stadium or arena. It takes place outside – in the natural elements. This is then broadcasted on television and serves as an authentic promotion for tourist visits. I think if the tourist board supports the race, you can really use the race to drive specific tourist goals. I know Adelaide, Australia has done this very well with the Tour Down Under. It has helped put Adelaide on the map as a great tourist destination via the platform of cycling. [Author’s note: The Colorado Tourism Office is a founding partner of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.]
- In this world of obesity and health concerns, cycling is a sport that is easy and healthy for everyone to participate in (assuming they have or can afford a bike). A professional race brings in role models for not only children, but adults – urging them to lead a healthy lifestyle. Many times there are health related expos accompanying the race or even an event where fans can ride the course or laps. It’s a great sport to watch, but I think participating in the activity is even better. We need more cyclists on the road. [Author’s note: Golden’s Health, Wellness, and Sustainability Expo in Parfet Park, 10th St. and Washington Ave., on August 27th and 28th is a must-visit.]
What do you see as unique about the USAPCC that can get the attention of Coloradans new to the sport and turn them into dedicated fans of this race to support its return?
Well to begin with, having a race of this caliber in the U.S. is unique. There will be some of the world’s best cyclists coming to Colorado and only one other state (California) can claim this as well. Hopefully the excitement of casual fans who watched the Tour de France on TV will carry over to the race – knowing that some of the key contenders that they watched on television will be battling for the USAPCC title in their home state. But I think there is an education and understanding factor that needs to be addressed. And I also think the race should feel like it’s Colorado’s race. It should showcase the beauty and culture of Colorado. People should be infused with a sense of pride for hosting one of the top races. And I think each town should listen to their residents and see what is important to the residents.
In places such as Belgium, even non-cyclists are crazy about the sport. What could we, the local organizing committee in Golden, say or do that would help all types of folks come out and have a great experience at the stage start?
Well I hate to compare Belgium and Colorado. It’s totally different – cycling is embedded in the culture of Belgium. We’re all about football (soccer) and cycling. My dream, like many others in my town, was to be a professional cyclist. And like you said, even non-cyclists are crazy about the sport. The U.S. doesn’t have this same cycling culture, which makes it a bit harder. I think some of the specific things that Golden can do are:
- I think at the stage start residents will immerse themselves with the spectacle of having the teams and riders there. It may be helpful to have informational sheets that can be handed out with a little description of each team and their stars, as well as some information on the race.
- Educational sessions where people can learn about the sport and how it works. Few even understand that this is a team sport and many people still think that Lance won the Tour seven times by himself.
- Community rides where people can come out with their bike, ride together and learn about cycling, as well as safety.
- Some races have programs that they implement in schools – about the sport of bike riding and safety. Some even partner with a local bike shop where they can get discounts on bikes for kids to encourage them (a kids “training” plan) to live a healthy lifestyle.
- If you watch the Tour de France, many towns create a unique public display to welcome the cyclists. Many times this also is shown on television. I think it’s a nice project for community members and serves as a sense of a pride, which I spoke about before.
The City of Golden is taking advantage of many of these suggestions. For a complete list of events in Golden the weekend of August 26-28, visit the “Race Weekend” section of this website.
Johan’s comments to U.S. Cycling Report on the state of pro-cycling in the U.S. inspired this article. To see his comments, go to U.S. Cycling Report, http://uscyclingreport.com/content/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4869&Itemid=1.
A special thank you to Jared Melzer of Johan Bruyneel Sports Management for his assistance with this article.
Photo Credits: Cristian Mejia and the City of Golden.