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Friday, March 2, 2012
'That race in Colorado?' The name will stay the same

By Bonnie D. Ford

USA Pro Cycling Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter is adamant -- the name will stay the same on the race many reporters and fans have been referring to, with fond irritation, as "that race in Colorado."

"There is some method to our madness," Hunter said earlier this week in the midst of an East Coast swing to talk to sponsors and media about the 2012 edition of the race, which runs from Aug. 20-26. "At the end of the day, we want to build the biggest and best race in America."

There's a long tradition of putting place names in bike races, and many (including me) have pointed out that USAPCC doesn't exactly trip off the tongue or make for a sexy Twitter hashtag. Plus, in the next sentence or next breath, the name has to be qualified as ... you know, that race in Colorado. But Hunter, who helped create the Tour of California when he was president of AEG Sports and has extensive experience with professional team sports, insists that with time, the race will carve out its own identity.

We agreed to disagree, and ultimately, Hunter may deserve the benefit of the doubt. When he took over the organization, the race then known as the Quiznos Pro Challenge was hanging by a thread, stumbling PR-wise and minus supporting corporate sponsorships or a TV deal.

"I started every meeting with an apology,'' Hunter recalled.

The owners of the sandwich chain are still the chief bankrollers of the USAPCC, but the race is on firm financial footing now and the last two hours of each stage will be broadcast live on NBC Sports (during the week) and the parent network on the final Sunday. Invitations will go out to eight Pro Tour teams and eight more lower-tier teams (mostly domestics) in the next month to six weeks.

And the race has significantly upped its competitive credibility this year by adding a mountaintop finish in Stage 6, which will start in Golden and end on Flagstaff Mountain on the outskirts of Boulder. City officials gave their approval to the plan earlier this week.

The absence of Boulder -- the de facto cycling capital of the country -- from last year's route was an obvious gap. This year, the peloton will do two circuits in Boulder before heading uphill (Joe Lindsey of Bicycling Magazine breaks it down here), and the backdrop and Saturday crowds should make for a banner day.

Stage 7 is a time trial in Denvee. More route details will be announced in the last week of March.