Western History & Genealogy Blog
The Coors Classic: America's First Big Bicycle Race
When I was a kid in the mid-1980’s, I went with my family to downtown Grand Junction to see the start of the Tour of the Moon, the stage of the Coors International Bicycle Classic (which all the locals called simply the “Coors Classic”) that went over the Colorado National Monument. Greg LeMond stood on a high podium with Bernard Hinault, speaking to the large crowd. I barely knew who those guys were, but you could still feel the buzz in the air. It was something new and interesting and we watched excitedly as the race began. The Coors Classic was started by Boulder based Celestial Seasonings in 1975, and was originally named the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic. The race started small, with just a few stages in Boulder and elsewhere in Colorado. Eventually, it became the fourth largest cycling race in the world, behind only the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and La Vuelta a España. It attracted racing teams from all over the world and the sport’s biggest names. The race offered criteriums and mountain stages all over Colorado, and eventually in California, Nevada, and even Hawaii. The Coors Classic helped put cycling on the map in the United States. It was also groundbreaking for women’s cycling, holding the largest women’s racing tour event, and inspiring the Tour de France to briefly add a women’s division (1984-1989). Big names such as LeMond, Hinault, Connie Carpenter, Davis Phinney, and Jeannie Longo became tour champions. In 1988, Coors withdrew its sponsorship of the Classic, and the race soon folded. Pro bicycle racing on such a scale was not to be seen again in Colorado for many years. Today bicyclists are everywhere and pro cycling has since returned to Colorado with the USA Pro Challenge, and it can credit the Coors Classic with paving the way. To see the Coors Classic International Bicycle Classic Collection, come into the Western History and Genealogy Department.