DENVER Organizers of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge pronounced the inaugural year of their race an economic success for Colorado and said they will choose host cities for 2012 before Thanksgiving.
The seven-day professional bike race brought some of the worlds top cyclists and more than 1 million spectators.
Nearly a quarter of the fans who saw the race were from out of state, and 94 percent said they were likely to return next year, according to a survey done by IFM, a sports research firm that USA Pro Challenge hired to gauge the races benefits.
The firm estimated the race brought $83.5 million into the state.
I dont know anyone who doesnt at least if you get a beer in them they dont confess it was bigger and better for a first-year event than anyone could ever imagine, said Gov. John Hickenlooper.
NBC televised the August race and wants to run it again next year, said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Two other networks are interested, too, Hunter said.
Viewers in 161 countries saw the race on television.
Our numbers in Europe were phenomenal from a television standpoint, Hunter said. It was really a commercial not just for the state but each community.
Potential benefits from the TV exposure were not counted in the economic-impact study.
But the publicity has enticed Durango officials to make another bid for the race after losing out on the 2011 event.
I think you look at playing to your strengths, said Mary Monroe, executive director of Trails 2000 and a member of Durangos local organizing committee.
The exposure this would provide to our community and for tourism would be above and beyond what could be purchased, Monroe said.
Durangos City Council voted this month to submit a bid for 2012, but the town can expect stiff competition.
Hunter expects up to 40 bids, including bids from all 11 of this years host cities.
The hardest part is choosing where to go, Hunter said.
He expects to announce host cities by the second or third week of November.
A private company runs the race, and officials have big dreams, including one-day events in cities around the United States. But the main event always will be in Colorado, Hunter said.
The route will change every year. This year, the closest it came to Southwest Colorado was Gunnison.
IFM based its economic-impact numbers on a survey of about 2,000 spectators. It polled fans at every stop on the seven-day tour.
The survey produced some eye-popping numbers, including a claim that the average fan had a household income of $113,000 well above the state median of $56,000 per household, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Herald could not independently verify the survey results. However, the tour included stops in Aspen and Vail, two of Americas richest towns.
Still, Hunter said cycling attracts a wealthy, educated demographic.
The die-hards that follow this sport are a lot of management and executive positions, Hunter said. But the great thing about this sport is its free, and I think thats why you saw so many crowds come out.
About 250,000 people saw the races last stage, from Golden to Denver, making it all but essential that the race conclude in the Mile High City again in 2012.