VF Corporation — the owners of outdoor gear and outerwear brands like Wrangler, JanSport, Smartwool, Eagle Creek and Altra — will become the title sponsor of the August Colorado Classic pro-cycling race, the company announced Wednesday.
The four-stage race is in its third year, but the 2019 event boasts a dramatically different field.
It's going to be a women's-only race.
VF's sponsorship is no accident. The company is relocating from North Carolina to Colorado in August, timed for the Aug. 22-25 race.
Lucy Diaz of RPM Events Group, which runs the race, told Colorado Politics they hope to bring in World Tour teams (those that race in Europe), pro-continental and regional teams.
"Our vision is to create a sustainable event for Colorado," Diaz said. VF has made a two-year commitment to sponsor the race, although Diaz said its sponsorship is open-ended.
"When we looked at year three and how to make a difference in the sport" as well as a sustainable legacy, the opportunity was with women's cycling, she explained.
The opportunities women have to race are a third or a quarter of what's available to men, so "we wanted to put our stake in the ground to create a platform for women," she added.
Race sponsors hope to promote both the race as well as the stories of women racers.
"They cycle because it's a passion, not a full-time profession," she said.
Diaz said they hope the race will attract more supporters for women's racing.
Craig Hodges, vice president of corporate affairs of VF Corporation, said the move to Colorado will bring 800 jobs to the Denver area over the next eight years.
"There's no better place than Denver, sitting at the base of the Rocky Mountains," for VF's brands to be located, he told Colorado Politics. The outdoor industry being based in Colorado also helped draw the company to Denver.
As to the race, "it's about three things. The Colorado Classic aligns with our mission" on sustainable and active lifestyles. The race's focus on gender equality also resonated with VF, he said.
"It's something we support both inside and outside the workplace," and it provides an opportunity to help VF become integrated with its future home state.
Prize money for the four-stage race is $75,000. That's $5,000 more than the prize purse for the men's race in 2018 and $55,000 more than the prize purse for the 2018 women's race.
It's also part of the burgeoning trend of giving women racers equal or nearly equal prize purses in U.S. event.
The Tour of California, one of the nation's most prominent stage races, announced last year it would give equal purses in the men's and women's races.
Racers at the 2019 Colorado Classic will earn significant UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for professional cycling) points for their country’s Olympic qualification because of the race’s recent UCI 2.1 designation.
In addition, this year’s race will feature a National Collegiate All-Star Team that is being created in partnership with USA Cycling.
United Healthcare (UHC) won both the men's and women's overall team races in the 201 competition, with Katie Hall of UHC taking first place in the general classification in the women's race. However, UHC will not be part of the 2019 race; the company ended its nine-year sponsorship in 2018. The team is now under the banner of Rally Cycling.