Bike-race bid puts regionalism to test

You may or may not have had a chance to catch some of the coverage of the 600-mile USA Pro Challenge.

If so, it should have been abundantly clear that the seven-stage event is much more than a bike race. It is a marketing and public-relations coup for any of the cities that host a leg of the event, a rather remarkable feat for a race that is in just its second year.

By December, Northern Colorado should know whether it will be part of next year’s week-long Pro Challenge.

In a welcome stroke of regional thinking, Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park have banded together in hopes of serving as hosts of a Northern Colorado leg of the race. There’s huge excitement over this; somebody even said it would be equivalent to bringing the Olympics to Northern Colorado. That’s clearly over the top, but if the region does get to play host, it probably will be the largest event Northern Colorado ever has hosted.

Win or lose, the level of cooperation on display in this bid deserves a big cheer. The cities involved are building regional ties and, if they pull it off, helping create a regional brand that could pay dividends in all sorts of ways for many years to come.

As envisioned, the Northern Colorado leg of the race would start in Loveland, wind through Windsor and climb through Estes Park before wrapping up in Fort Collins.

Local organizers already are about halfway to their goal of raising $500,000. They held a series of private parties to raise awareness and capital.

Last year’s race meant 25 hours of coverage on NBC Sports and generated more than 3 billion media impressions worldwide. With crowds as large as 60,000 at various stops, it also delivered more than $83 million in sales tax revenue for Colorado.

The cities involved in the bid will all need to cover some part of the cost of hosting the Northern Colorado leg of the race. In fact, the cities already have made or are lining up their commitments, so organizers say they’re now looking for the private sector to help.

Big slugs of money are always good but smaller contributions are just as welcome. Organizers point out that 80 percent of the sponsorship dollars received by the city of Santa Rosa, Calif., which hosts part of the annual Amgen Tour of California, came in increments of $1,500 to $2,000.

Volunteers and companies willing to make in-kind donations also are needed.

Getting dollars from the business community won’t be a snap, organizers say, because sponsorship dollars go to the company behind the race, Medalist Sports. But local events will be created leading up to the race for which sponsorships will be sold.

It will also be a test of our ability to think and behave like a region.

Allen Greenberg is editor of the Northern Colorado Business Report based in Fort Collins, a sister publication of the Boulder County Business Report. He can be reached at 970-232-3142 or agreenberg@ncbr.com.

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