The Colorado Classic women’s bike race will go defunct unless a corporate sponsor emerges to save it, event founder Ken Gart said Tuesday in an unusual public plea for help.
The event was created in 2019 to showcase women’s cycling but was not held the past two years because of the pandemic. The event’s sponsor, VF Corp. (parent company of North Face, Timberland and Jansport), signed a two-year sponsorship deal after it moved its corporate headquarters to Denver, but that deal expired in 2020.
“If we are unable to attain the necessary investment, the Colorado Classic and its mission to champion inclusivity and gender equity for women’s cycling will be gone,” Gart said in an open letter to Colorado Classic supporters.
Colorado has a long history of supporting elite bicycle racing with large and enthusiastic crowds, but financing events is challenging because there is no way to charge admission for spectators at an event that can be spread out over dozens of miles.
Gart believes the only way to save the Colorado Classic and support women’s cycling is to create a national women’s cycling series, with the Colorado Classic serving as a four-day final event. That would require $3 million per year.
“I would like to see two-day races in six cities across the country, which would allow women to have this platform as professional cyclists,” Gart said in an interview. “Then the Colorado Classic would attract talent from around the world. We would take the winners from that six-race series, and they would be guaranteed spots in the Colorado Classic.”
Gart said the event will never be a money-maker. The goal would be to break even.
“Either we’re going to be recognized as one of the best races in the world, or we’re going to go away,” Gart said.
Most elite female cyclists have to work other jobs in order to make ends meet, and Gart is passionate about supporting them.
“They’re such unbelievable role models,” Gart said. “They are veterinarians, they are teachers. They are so articulate, they are so noble, and the disparity in opportunities is shocking to me. The women don’t have a fraction of the opportunities. With what has happened in soccer and tennis and skiing, in terms of women being on parity with men, there is no reason in the world that it shouldn’t happen with cycling. We could be the catalyst to make it happen.”
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