With their event on the brink of vanishing, the organizers of the Colorado Classic threw a Hail Mary on Tuesday. In an open letter to the general sporting community, the organizers state that unless a new title sponsor steps up with a $3 million commitment, their event will go the way of the Tour of California and the Tour of Utah — meaning, on an indefinite hiatus or gone altogether.
“We need your help and the time is now,” Founder and Chairman of the Colorado Classic, Ken Gart, writes.
“We are at an unfortunate crossroads. Given the lack of financial support and sponsorship interest, we are faced with the difficult decision on whether or not to continue operating the event. To relaunch the Colorado Classic, we need a minimum investment of $3 million. We realize this is a big ask, but after seeking funding over the past 12 months we have come up short and are now making this request public, as a final effort to leave no stone unturned. If we are unable to attain the necessary investment, the Colorado Classic and its mission to champion inclusivity and gender equity for women’s cycling will be gone.”
The Colorado Classic is the latest event to carry on Colorado’s long cycling legacy, which notably includes the Coors Classic and the USA Pro Challenge. The Colorado Classic replaced the USA Pro Challenge in 2017 with a four-stage event for both men and women. The men’s race, carrying a 2.HC designation, was part of the UCI America Tour, while the women’s race was part of the national calendar.
In 2018, the Colorado Classic made headlines around the globe when organizers announced that the event would proceed as a standalone international women's race, foregoing the men's event in favor of raising the bar for women’s cycling with a quadrupled prize purse, increased team support, live streaming and longer, more challenging routes.
In doing so, the Colorado Classic became the only standalone UCI women’s stage race in North America with a 2.1 category designation.
“In 2019, the Colorado Classic became the gold standard for women’s racing in the United States. After recognizing the drastic gender disparity within professional cycling, we set out on a mission to become a new best practice for women’s only racing. In a year’s time, the Colorado Classic became more than a cycling race…We created an international platform where women are treated equally to men with prize money, broadcast coverage and all other aspects of the race,” writes Gart.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, any further editions of the Colorado Classic were placed on hold. Nearly two years later, professional bike racing is back in full swing in Europe, but in the U.S., funding is coming up short.
Still, Gart is hanging on to hope, writing: “Right now, we have a “blue sky” moment, and with the right partner, we can create something that makes a real and lasting impact on women’s cycling. The Colorado Classic is a game-changer, and without this event, the opportunities for female cyclists, both current and upcoming, are significantly reduced. Our ask is simple: we need a long-term, multi-year commitment to re-launch the Colorado Classic. We need a partner with an aligned vision to change the world of cycling and continue moving the needle for equity.”
Professional cycling in the U.S. has been dealt big blows in recent years. The Tour of California, a WorldTour event on both the men’s and women’s calendar, was the first to announce its indefinite hiatus in 2020, followed by the Tour of Utah international men’s race at the end of 2021.
The UCI races remaining on the calendar for 2022 are the Tour of the Gila, Joe Martin Stage Race and Chrono Kristin Armstrong. New this year is the Maryland Classic, a men's-only, UCI Class 1 ProSeries one-day race, which will makes its debut on September 4th.
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Cycling Weekly's North American Editor, Anne-Marije Rook is old school. She holds a degree in journalism and started out as a newspaper reporter — in print! She can even be seen bringing a pen and notepad to the press conference.
Originally from The Netherlands, she grew up a bike commuter and didn't find bike racing until her early twenties when living in Seattle, Washington. Strengthened by the many miles spent darting around Seattle's hilly streets on a steel single speed, Rook's progression in the sport was a quick one. As she competed at the elite level, her journalism career followed, and soon she became a full-time cycling journalist.
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