Boulder Cycle Sport owner Brandon Dwight is used to criss-crossing the country for USA Cycling’s cyclocross national championships. He’s done it every year for 14 years.
But for the 2014-2015 season, Dwight is hoping — as a racer and a business owner — that the national championship races will be held here in Boulder, at the Valmont Bike Park.
“It’s a great course, it will be well organized, and the crowds will be enormous,” Dwight said. “As a racer, that’s what you love — the sounds of the fans just screaming. And that’s not just coming from Boulder — people all over the country will be excited about the energy Colorado will provide.”
USA Cycling will consider the following “key selection criteria” in choosing a venue for the national cyclocross championships:
Event management experience
Financial and community support
Venue quality / course selection
Proximity of courses/venues to hotels, food, and lodging
Maximum exposure to the local community
Media/public relations plan
Local/regional/national sponsorship potential
Location and accessibility for participants
Overall bid presentation
— Courtesy Andrea Smith, USA Cycling
On Wednesday, officials from USA Cycling toured the Valmont Bike Park as part of their evaluation process for choosing a venue for the big race. Boulder is one of three finalists under consideration; the others are Asheville, N.C., and Austin, Texas.
Andrea Smith, of USA Cycling, said the organization has already visited Asheville and Austin and will announce the host for the 2014-15 race toward the end of this month.
Michael Eubank, project manager of the Valmont Bike Park for the city’s parks and recreation department, said the Wednesday site visit focused on the nuts and bolts of a race at Valmont, which he thinks will draw more racers than this year’s event, which was in Madison, Wis.
“Madison had close to 1,200 people racing over the whole five days of the event,” Eubank said. “I think we’ll expect close to 1,500 if not 1,800. I think we can provide a better opportunity for racers and attract more racers.”
Eubank also said that a study on this races impact in the cyclocross hub of Bend, Ore., suggested that the economic impact of the event on the city was about $1 million.
“Again, I think we’ll meet and exceed that,” he said.
Greg Keller, a local cyclocross racer and enthusiast who is part of the organizing committee with the city for Boulder’s bid for the event, said the park was designed for high-caliber cycling events like this.
“Before the first shovel met the earth at Valmont, the course was designed for a UCI-caliber cyclocross event, and that proved itself this fall with the Boulder Cup,” Keller said, referring to the Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body for world-cup level racing. The Boulder Cup, a fall cyclocross race at Valmont, drew about 800 racers to Valmont and was a UCI race.
Bobby Noyes, who was involved in the creation of the bike park and has been helping with this bidding process as well, said this highlights one reason why the design of the bike park was challenging — it needed to be great for day-to-day riding for the community but also meet requirements for races like the cyclocross nationals. Most of the required infrastructure is there now, he said, but there are a few issues to deal with if Boulder gets the race, like temporary parking for a large crowd.
“The good news is, there are some industrial areas near the airport, and those aren’t used on weekends, and we’ve talked to landowners over there,” Noyes said. “And Parks has a maintenance facility nearby.”
Noyes said there are up to 2,000 parking spots within 500 yards of the bike park; Eubank said their proposal to USA Cycling notes about 1,600 parking spots that weren’t used for past races. At this year’s nationals, Eubank said organizers parked about 700 cars on the busiest day of the event.
Beyond the bike park — and parking — Keller said he thinks Boulder has a strong bid for hosting the races because of Boulder’s bike culture. He called Boulder the epicenter of the sport’s growth (“just look at the juniors numbers,” he said) and said the area has the right support system for races — like coaches and mechanics.
And it takes the community to pull together an event like this, Eubank said.
“This has definitely been a collective effort with the community and the city to get behind this and get excited about this race coming to Boulder,” Eubank said. “Beyond just a race itself, it’s encouraging the bigger picture, of cycling recreation.”
The process for bidding for the race started a little more than a month ago, Keller said. But the idea of hosting national races started long before that.
“We’d always envisioned it,” he said. “Even when Valmont was being built, we really thought about the current season, 2012-13, but it wasn’t the time. The park hadn’t cut its teeth yet.”
Dwight, of Boulder Cycle Sport, said he’s looking forward to the potential exposure for his business that would come with an influx of cyclocross racers from around the country. But it will also be convenient for the large contingent of area racers that head to the nationals every year.
“Anywhere from 20 to 30 travel just from Boulder, but that doesn’t include people just outside of Boulder who race — Lyons, Longmont, Denver,” Dwight said. “We have a great community, it’s not just Boulder.”
Dwight said Boulder’s competition — Austin and Asheville — both have strong cycling communities, and that both would put on a good race.
Noyes pointed out that the Asheville contingent has proposed holding the race at the historic Biltmore home, and that’s not easy to compete with.
“There’s a great cycling community in North Carolina, so we’re not taking anything for granted.”