DENVER (CBS4) – American Levi Leipheimer raced into the Colorado history books by winning the first ever USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Race officials estimated 250,000 people watched the final stage to the race and they believe more than a million watched it over the course of the week. That means talks are already under way to bring the race back next year.
From the Garden of the Gods to the winding roads of the state’s highest passes to the cobblestone streets of Vail to downtown Denver, the race was a great success. In seven days professional cycling saw the best of Colorado.
“Even if you don’t follow cycling, it’s just a cool thing for our state,” a fan in Denver said.
Fans were so wild sometimes it was hard for racers to break through the crowds. Many fans even rode the same course as the pros. The participants said the fans made it a great experience.
“I was going as hard as I can in a tunnel of people three feet wide and my ears were just ringing,” cyclist Timothy Duggan with Team Cannondale said. “It was just seven days in a row. I’ve never had that before.”
“The race was building and building every stage. The more attention it got, the bigger the crowds got and today in Denver was one of the biggest spectacles in US cycling I’ve ever seen,” Leipheimer said.
It was much more than a cycling celebration. For many mountain towns it was a chance to prove they could handle hosting an international spectacle.
The future is now priority No. 1. A future race hasn’t been scheduled yet, but race organizers promised on Monday that they would.
“It’s been a great week and we will be back and we will be bigger next year,” an organizer said.
“For the state, for the sport of cycling, it’s absolutely critical,” Leipheimer said.
There is the potential to add more stages to the race and there could be yet another new sponsor next year as organizers try to raise more money.