The cycle-racing festival wants its special guest CEOs to enjoy the ride – and to invest
Mally Pacitti dances with her daughter Ryder as the New Pornographers perform during Velorama Colorado on Friday night in Denver’s River North District. The first-ever Velorama Colorado kicked off Friday night, also featuring a performance by Wilco. The concert was part of the inaugural bicycle race Colorado Classic. Saturday’s Stage 3 of the race will go from Denver to Peak to Peak Highway, beginning and ending in the RiNo District.
BRECKENRIDGE» The Colorado Classic is more than a bike-racing festival. It’s more than a four-day, tourist-luring commercial. The inaugural pro-cycling race, which wraps in Denver’s River North neighborhood on Saturday and Sunday with a merry blend of bikes, beers and bands, also is serving as bait for big business.
“I’ve always said that Denver will be — and now it has become — one of the most dynamic and fastest growing cities in the country, and this level of bike race potential and support shows what we can do for a high-level company,” said Colorado tech entrepreneur Jim Deters, who is hosting a cast of corporate bosses on a signature Colorado weekend of cycling, dining and dancing. “This is a whole new level for a live commercial. They are not just seeing it on TV. They are putting rubber to the pavement and feeling the burn of elevation in their lungs and screaming with the bands. We are going to get them addicted to Colorado.”
More than a dozen heavy hitters from IBM, Amazon, Silicon Valley Bank, Workday and venture capital firms will join Gov. John Hickenlooper and a consortium of Colorado cheerleaders — including DaVita chief Ken Thiry, real estate developer Mark Falcone and other business leaders, as well as musicians and cyclists — for a bike ride, dinner and backstage boogying on Saturday. The day should highlight Colorado’s hallmark outdoor and cultural lifestyle that draws top talent as well as the Front Range business environment carefully crafted to welcome entrepreneurs. The hope of the so-called CEO Challenge, dreamed up by Colorado bike boss and race investor Ken Gart, is to entice corporate chieftains to invest in Colorado.
Hickenlooper, sporting a Team Rwanda bike jersey, said the inaugural Colorado Classic is all about creating “a series of moments of intense beauty.” The game-changing bike-race model — blending music lovers and cycling spectators in a sound-
tracked festival of professional bike racing — aims to broaden the pro-cycling tent to include all comers, including young, beer-swilling dancers who might not be familiar with bike racing.
The governor compared the Colorado Classic’s blended approach — including Velorama, the entertainment side of the event — to the common retail strategy of “cumulative attraction,” which groups similar stores to encourage cross-shopping that establishes locations as the most attractive places to drop some cash.
“The race, the Colorado Classic and Velorama, is so cool in its own right,” Hickenlooper said. “The more decision makers, the more people with influence from other parts of the country who experience it, the better. This is all just marketing the state. We have a bunch of offices with Silicon Valley companies already. Wouldn’t hurt to have a few more.”
Deters, who has spent his career launching startups — including Galvanize and gSchool — will lead some of the bigwig visitors on an entire lap of the 80mile Stage 3, pushing from Denver up Coal Creek Canyon and back down Golden Gate Canyon on Saturday. Women’s cycling legend Kristin Armstrong, who has won medals each of the past three Summer Olympics, will host a 40-mile ride. Later that night, the group will dine with the governor and members of Wilco before the band plays in RiNo.
Tom Pitstick, chief marketing officer for Denver’s 106-year-old Gates Corp., is hoping the race helps his company sell more of its innovative carbon-belt drive systems that are designed to push the venerable bike chain into obsolescence.
His team is participating in the CEO Challenge, helping to sell Denver to business tycoons.
“It’s a great business community. It’s a big small city with a great pool of talent coming in and a great education system. And the work environment has everything you need, with business infrastructure like big law firms and a great international airport,” Pitstick said. “We’ve been here 106 years and we have no intention of ever leaving. I’m telling everyone: Come join us.”
Spectators takes photographs of the women cyclists as they pass by during Stage 2 of the Colorado Classic bike race on Thursday in Breckenridge.