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One USA Pro Cycling Challenge LOC Member’s Experience, Part 2

July 24, 2011

This piece is a continuation of Part 1. It describes what the owner, race organizer, and Local Organizing Committee (LOC) each do to bring a pro-cycling race to life.

It all starts with money. A person or entity must step-up to fund the cost of holding the race. For the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UPCC), race owners Rick and Richard Schaden have invested $10 million. According to the Denver Post, “The 20-year majority shareholders of Quiznos and founders of Denver’s Consumer Capital Partners said the investment beyond the sandwich company’s sponsorship ensures the race will be around for a long time.”

The Denver Post article continues, “Shawn Hunter…tapped to serve as co-chairman of the race with Rick Schaden, said Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz ‘s ownership support of the 7-year-old Tour of California has grown that race into the largest cycling event in the U.S. Coloradans can expect the Schadens to do the same. With the $10 million investment, team sponsors, USA cycling and all the other sponsors can feel safe directing their time and money into the race. ‘They know this event will be around for the long term,’ he said.”

Race Organizer

The owner funds the race, forms an entity to operate the race, and selects a race organizer to  implement it. Medalist Sports is the organizer for the UPCC. Medalist manages the planning, implementing, and promotion of the entire race, and works with the host cities on arranging the start and finish particulars of each stage. After a December symposium with all 11 host cities, in January our Golden LOC began to meet with Medalist representatives almost monthly for about two hours. Early on the main topics included the route, types of sponsors the LOC could pursue, the start location, and marketing materials.

To achieve a consistent look and feel and experience, Medalist controls items that pertain to the entire race and impact all starts and finishes. This includes national media, sponsors, marketing materials, the race website and social media (Twitter account and Facebook page). Medalist also secures and communicates with the teams. Shawn Hunter described the team selection process to VeloNews: “We analyzed a number of factors including recent performance as well as who may be peaking at our event in order to have an exciting line-up in our race in its inaugural year.” The race organizer works with the Colorado State Police, the County Sheriffs, and local police regarding the route, permits, road closures, and safety on the road. Medalist provides all of the signage on the road for race day and hard materials such as the announcer and sign-in stages and tents for the VIP and Expo areas. The race organizer also provides the staff to set-up and tear-down these race day structures and work with the LOCs.

I would guess that a significant part of the organizer’s role is to work with the owner on achieving its branding and other objectives for the race, which is something the LOC doesn’t directly observe.

Local Organizing Committee

The LOC arranges things specific to its start or finish and secures resources for local operations prior to and on race day. It reserves hotel rooms for the teams and their staff, and for Medalist personnel who visit with the LOC while planning the race. The LOC provides messages for local media (eg, press releases about securing local sponsors), and if it chooses to hosts a website for its stage and staffs local social media operations. In Golden we built and maintain a local website, www.procyclinggolden.com, a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/usapccgolden), and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ProCyclingGolden).

The LOC conducts grass-roots local marketing and communication about the race and its stage start or finish. In addition to outreach at community venues and cycling events, since our stage start is on a Sunday, we’ve communicated with over 20 places of worship so they can make arrangements if needed to accommodate road closures. The LOC plans and implements community events (ancillary events) to generate interest in and excitement for the race and cycling. Golden’s events include: showing the film American Flyers outdoors, an evening block party, a kid’s bike safety rodeo, a veloswap, a citizen’s Lookout Mountain hill climb, a two-day sustainability, health, and wellness expo, and costumed bike cruisers parading on race day.

Additional activities the LOC is responsible for include but are not limited to: providing box lunches for team staff, sourcing volunteers for pre-race day activities such as outreach and ancillary events, and creating and distributing information about the race route and street closures to the residential and business communities.

In my opinion one of a new host city’s greatest challenges is understanding its role vis-à-vis the race organizer and which work falls to whom. Medalist provides a start and a finish handbook for LOCs which is helpful, but many items require additional clarification. For example, Medalist secures overall race sponsors (for the UPCC, this includes Quiznos, UnitedHealthcare and others); the LOC secures local sponsors to fund its activities and use of local public services (such as police). To avoid conflict and protect the value of a sponsor’s investment, the race organizer will initially exclude certain categories of sponsors from the LOC’s prospects (such as health care, automobiles, fast food). This narrows the scope of the LOC’s prospects to local organizations. Categories of sponsors come up that are not on the excluded list and need to be discussed to decide if they are fair game for the LOC. Raising $200K locally is a daunting task. This is probably the high end for a LOC’s costs; we’ve heard the low end is $20K for a stage start, though that seems awfully low and might not include in-kind contributions of city services. Small towns with a diminutive economic base could find it difficult to fund a stage start or finish unless they can secure significant in-kind donations of services, focus on a small number of ancillary events, and / or design a route through town with few intersections and road closures.

Race Organizer and LOC Work Together

You could say Medalist is the musculo-skeleton of the race implementation body and the LOC is the skin that forms a unique start or finish. It is a symbiotic relationship; neither can pull off a multi-day stage race without the other.

Here’s how they work together. Our LOC proposes several routes as part of its bid. Medalist determines the final route, through dialogue with the LOC and by taking into account safety, road construction projects, the creation of a competitive and exciting course for the athletes and the spectators, timing of television coverage, and other factors. The race organizer and the LOC work together to identify the start/finish lines, a location for media check-in, and parking locations for team buses, race organizer staff, VIPs, and media. The LOC manages closing parking lots to vehicles in advance and monitors them on race day; the race organizer provides street signage to the lots. Medalist, together with the police entities, will monitor major intersections; the LOC’s volunteers, as course marshals, will monitor smaller roads and driveways. Medalist collects volunteer sign-ups for course marshals through the race website and provides race day tee-shirts for them; the LOC communicates with these volunteers to orient them and assign them to places along the route. Our Golden LOC will have 220 course marshals on the road on race day.

Calling the race organizer the backbone of race implementation is not meant to diminish the amount of effort an LOC puts out to carry off a successful start or finish. Once can liken the LOC’s work to that of a team doing behind the scenes work to deliver its leader to the finish line. Our Golden LOC is composed of 14 volunteer committees*, nearly all co-chaired with a handful to dozens of additional volunteers on each committee. The Golden co-chairs meet about every two weeks with our LOC lead. Find brief bios for the committee chairs here.

Why has the name changed from QPC to UPCC?

One of the most common questions folks ask when we talk to them about the race is why the name of the race changed from the initial Quiznos Pro Challenge (QPC) to the UPCC. This quote from USAToday provides the best explanation.

“The Colorado race was originally named the Quiznos Pro Challenge but was changed to USA Pro Cycling Challenge earlier this year, in part to allow organizers to attach a charity’s name as the presenting sponsor. Quiznos remains a founding sponsor. ‘Our goal is to build a permanent world sporting property based in Colorado and really standing for the U.S., and we felt to start with a specific brand in the name could be limiting,’ said Schaden, who founded Quiznos and remains a shareholder. ‘We knew we were going to want to be innovative in what we did with the race, because it is a sporting event, not a corporation.’”

Disclaimer

I do not know everything that occurs to put together and pull off our Golden Stage 6 start of the UPCC. I share my observations as a LOC member, as co-chair of the community outreach and education committee. I am not an employee of the race organizer, Medalist Sports. I am a volunteer and do this work because I love professional cycling, I love Golden as a cycling destination, and I want the race to succeed so it continues in Colorado into the future.

*Golden LOC committees: ancillary events, expo, sustainability, outreach and education, start ceremony, marketing, operations, PR/media, sponsorship, technical, VIP/hospitality, volunteers (race day), pre-race day volunteers, merchandise.

List of LOC UPCC Websites (I could not locate stand-alone websites for Avon, Vail, or Colorado Springs)

Golden www.procyclinggolden.com

Breckenridge www.BreckProCycling.com

Steamboat www.steamboatprocycling.com

Salida http://salidastagestart.com/usa-pro-cycling-challenge/

Crested Butte http://www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com/event/upcc

Denver http://www.denver.org/usa-pro-cycling-challenge

Gunnison http://www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com/event/upcc

Aspen http://www.aspenupcc.com/

 

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