World Class Racing Returns to Colorado with the Colorado Classic

By Dave Richards

Majestic sandstone walls flank the riders as they roll through Red Rocks Park. Men's Stage 3 road course starting in Denver running out west up Lookout Mtn, then Red Rocks with a loop back to Denver. 2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com)

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.

Climbing high up above Vail in the Aspen trees. Women's Stage 1 Vail Colorado, 2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com)
Carlyn Jackson (Orion Racing) gathers her focus on the start ramp of the stage 2 time trial. Women's Stage 2 Time Trial Vail Colorado, 2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com)
Trek-Segafredo rider escapes the grip of Satan and his minions. Men's Stage 2 Time Trial Vail Colorado, 2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com)
EF Education riders lead the charge out of Red Rocks Park. Men's Stage 3 road course starting in Denver running out west up Lookout Mtn, then Red Rocks with a loop back to Denver. 2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com)
Jennifer Valente (Twenty20 p/b Sho-Air) raises her arm in victory after winning the bunch sprint to take Women's Stage Four, a 4 lap circuit race around downtown Denver. 2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com
Travis McCabe (United Healthcare) takes the victory on Men's Stage Four. 2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com)
Final leader jersey winners L-R: Sprint Leader – Jennifer Valente (Twenty20 p/b Sho-Air), Queen of the Mountains – Leah Thomas (United Healthcare), Race winner – Katie Hall (United Healthcare), Best Young Rider – Gillian Ellsay (Rally Cycling), Most Agressive Rider – Flavia Oliviera (Fearless Femme). 2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com)
Final jersey leaders: King of the Mountains – Hugh Carthy ( EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale), Best Young Rider – Daniel Martinez ( EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale), race winner – Gavin Mannion (United Healthcare), Sprint Leader – Joe Lewis (Holowekso Citadel p/b Arapahoe), Taylor Phinney ( EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale)2018 Colorado Classic cycling race (Photo by Dave Richards, daverphoto.com)
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