The wheel deal
GJ selected to host USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in 2017, '18
Micah Rice had plenty of sales pitches thrown his way when it came to finding a new home for the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships. In the end, the Grand Valley sold itself.
“The history of cycling there in Grand Junction is outstanding,” said Rice, the vice president for national events with USA Cycling. “That, among other things, played a big part in this.”
The Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission announced Wednesday that USA Cycling had awarded the national-championship event to Grand Junction for 2017 and 2018. It replaces the current event host of Asheville, North Carolina, which will host the 2016 national championships in May.
The race quickly becomes the top competitive event in an area that campaigned hard to be the overall start of the 2016 USA Pro Challenge. Other annual cycling events in the Grand Valley include the 2,000-rider Tour of the Moon ride and the Maverick Classic, which is organized and run by Colorado Mesa University’s cycling team. In years past, stages of the Coors Classic bike race were held on Colorado National Monument.
Ironically, Grand Junction City Council in November gave the go-ahead to support hosting the opening stage of the week-long Pro Challenge while Rice was in the area listening to sales pitches geared toward the Grand Valley hosting the national championships. That led some, including sports commission director Jennifer Stoll, to believe the timing of that decision regarding the Pro Challenge may have influenced the decision-making process of USA Cycling.
Not so, Rice said.
“It was good to hear about that and be part of those conversations, but I really don’t think it influenced the decision, because it probably still would have ended up in Grand Junction,” Rice said. “Compared to other places ... Grand Junction really stood out on its own.”
The Grand Valley was among six finalists to host the event, for which USA Cycling put out a request for bids this past summer. Grand Junction was chosen, Rice said, ahead of Bend, Oregon; Missoula, Montana; Tucson, Arizona; and Wichita Falls, Texas, among others.
Stoll hopes Grand Junction can host the national championships longer than two years.
“I think this puts the area on a national platform with us hosting a national-championship event like this,” she said. “My hope is to form a long-standing partnership with USA Cycling and keep this here for the 2019-20 cycle, also.”
Stoll said the event, which takes place annually in early May, draws an estimated 300 to 400 of the top Division I and II cyclists in the United States. She and Rice also said the caliber of Mesa’s cycling team — ranked third in the nation on USA Cycling’s most recent overall omnium report for both divisions — also played a part in the decision.
“We want a quality college team to host this,” Rice said.
The event will have three days of competition. A criterium will highlight the first day, followed by a road race on the second day and team and individual time trials on the final day. Stoll said the organizing committee, which included CMU, the city of Fruita and Mesa County, has mapped out six possible race courses that go into Fruita, Palisade, Whitewater, Glade Park and even downtown Grand Junction.
Mike Bennett, Fruita’s city manager, said one of the proposed road-race stages goes through Fruita.
“I think large national events like this draw a lot of people to our area,” Bennett said. “This gives people who wouldn’t normally come here a chance to see our outdoor quality of life.”