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Shawn Hunter on 2012 UPCC Host City Selection and More

October 20, 2011

[updated 11:05 p.m., 10/20/11]

“I haven’t had this much fun since 1995.” –  Shawn Hunter, CEO & co-chair of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UPCC)

(l to r) Golden LOC members Dan Dwyer & John Polli; UPCC's Shawn Hunter & Brian Farris

In 1995, Shawn Hunter launched the Avalanche in Colorado. In February, 2011 he accepted the CEO and co-chair role with the UPCC. Last night Shawn and Brian Farris, UPCC COO, joined Golden 2011 local organizing committee members in an informal celebration of a successful Golden stage start in the inaugural UPCC. Shawn graciously responded to several questions that have been begging for answers since I started weekly updates on the UPCC. Responses are paraphrased unless quoted.

Young UPCC Fan ( Flickr)

In the days after the riders crossed the last finish line in Denver, several media outlets implied that certain cities had been specifically invited to submit bids to host the race in 2012. Shawn dispelled that notion. “No one was handpicked to submit a bid,” he said. An open invitation exists for any city to bid for 2012. The UPCC also offered any city that had ever expressed even “one ounce” of interest at any point the opportunity to experience the race in 2011 so they could better understand what it takes to implement a stage start or finish. Shawn said, “There were no special invites.”

Shawn indicated that the UPCC has not yet decided if the race will visit the southwestern part of the state. News sources have said Durango and Montrose will bid for 2012.

When asked about whether Levi Leipheimer’s new Omega-Pharma Quick-Step team would be invited to race in 2012, Shawn said, “It’s way too early to comment on team invites.” Levi Leipheimer stated in video filmed at Specialized that as part of his 2012 program he’s planning to ride in California and to defend his Utah and Colorado wins.

Shawn also shared how the UPCC will select host cities for 2012. “It doesn’t come down to just economics; that’s not the primary factor,” he said. The quality of the host city’s leadership is important. Geography matters with respect to course possibilities and treating the riders well. Shawn elaborated: “Rider safety and comfort is very important. We don’t want long transfers between stages. We’re looking for great properties and meals for the riders; they remember.” Shawn added that host cities should also offer events around the race to create a multi-day atmosphere that builds excitement for the race’s arrival; host cities should also help grow the race’s brand. The UPCC is expected to announce 2012 host cities by the end of November.

A race official said in September that she had received many thank you notes from the athletes after the race regarding their lodging and food. At least one said the UPCC podium girls ranked first in beauty compared to those at other U.S. races.

Andy seems to like the UPCC podium girls ( Flickr)

The Schadens decided to invest $10 million in cycling for at least three reasons, according to Shawn. Both Richard Schaden and his son Rick cycle for fitness. They are strong consumer marketers, and had interest in an event that would attract consumer brands. In addition they wanted to find a way to give back to the State of Colorado.

Shawn added that when he spoke with potential sponsors while the race was named “Quiznos Pro Challenge,” people assumed he was calling about a charity. He’d have to explain that wasn’t the case, and soon realized the name had to be changed for this reason and in order to align the name with the event’s vision. The UPCC intends to maintain multiple sponsors. A single sponsor for the Coors Classic led to that race’s demise.

From Shawn’s point of view, a pro-cycling race provides a lot for spectators to enjoy regardless of who wins. Where else can a group of five – the average traveling party size based on the economic impact report by IFM – watch a great sporting event for free? Everybody wins, including the young fan pictured above, as well as Shawn, who is having the time of his life.

UPCC stage 6, downtown Golden at noon after last riders passed through (Mary Topping)

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