By Dave Richards
Colorado has long been known as a haven for serious cyclists. This has resulted in a large, enthusiastic fan base that came out in droves to cheer on riders in major races such as the Red Zinger, Coors Classic and the USA Pro Challenge. Unfortunately, like we’ve seen recently with other established races, financial complications caused their demise. In 2017 a new race organizer, RPM Events Group, stepped up with a new race called the Colorado Classic. The 2nd edition of the Classic was held this year in August 16-19, the week following the Tour of Utah. I decided it was high time that I get over there and cover the race.
The race followed a unique format in that rather than travel from town to town all four stages were based out of two locations – Vail & Denver. Stage 1 was a circuit race around Vail with the Stage 2 Time Trial on the I-70 frontage road course made famous during the Coors Classic years. Stage 3 was a road race that started in downtown Denver then headed west to climb the infamous Lookout Mountain and passed through Red Rocks Park before returning to the start-finish line (Note: the women rode a criterium in Denver while the men were out on the road which seemed odd and I feel shortchanged the women). Stage 4 wrapped things up with a circuit race through downtown Denver.
The event ran both the men’s and women’s stages back to back on each day. Also unusual was that the race was promoted as part of the “Velorama” music festival. The musical performances occurred late in the day in Denver after the races when the cyclists & fans were long gone. I think the jury’s still out on how that will work going forward.
With the race designated as high level UCI 2.HC, several men’s World Tour Teams competed as well as some top women’s teams. United Healthcare Pro Cycling Team dominated both the men’s and women’s podiums with Katie Hall & Gavin Mannion taking the overall wins. UHC also took the team prizes. It was a bittersweet moment since the highly successful UHC teams’ sponsor has pulled out and this was the final season for them.
At any rate, the racing was aggressive and the riders were cheered on by many fans lining the courses. Like any new race, there were some logistical kinks to work out, but it was good to see top level road racing return to Colorado. Here’s hoping that the Colorado Classic flourishes and builds on the long tradition of Colorado racing. In the meantime, I’ve put together a small gallery of my photos from the race for you to enjoy.
Dave Richards is a Utah-based photographer. You can find his work at daverphoto.com and in the pages of Cycling West.