The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge held in August attracted more than 1 million spectators from around the state, the country and the world and had an $83.5 million economic impact on the state, according to a report by IFM, a global sports research firm.

“The crowds were big, they were enthusiastic, they spent money in every host city, and just as importantly, they traveled to Colorado especially to see this race,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO and Co-Chairman of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.  “More than 22 percent of the 1 million- plus spectators at our race visited us from outside Colorado.  And with 94 percent reporting they will return next year, that’s a tremendous benefit for the state of Colorado in 2011 and in the future.”

Colorado Springs was host to the race prologue Aug. 22, where cyclists raced the clock on a route of Garden of the Gods Park into downtown for their starting position on day one of the week-long race across the state.

The 2011 race attracted spectators from at least 39 states and at least 16 other countries, the IFM report said.  It also developed an unprecedented following among Colorado residents, one of the significant contributing factors to the  enthusiasm displayed by spectators along the entire 518-mile course.

Spectators spent more than $67 million on lodging, food, transportation and entertainment.  The remaining economic impact comes in the form of team, staff, sponsor and vendor spending, employment created by the event, and the resulting tax effects of the race.

“We have something here in Colorado that is nearly impossible to duplicate: beautiful scenery, great amenities, and many world-renowned destinations,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement.  “Future USA Pro Challenge races will bring even more international attention to Colorado and lock in the state as the place to be in the summer.”

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The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will be back in Colorado in 2012 for seven days of cycling from Aug. 20-26.  Race organizers have already begun planning for the 2012 race, although host cities have not been announced.

Cities interested in becoming a host city must apply through an official Request for Proposals process beginning next month. Host cities are expected to be named by the end of November.

All 11 cities — Colorado Springs, Salida, Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte, Gunnison, Aspen, Vail, Avon, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Golden and Denver — have expressed interest in returning as a host city in 2012, event organizers said.

Hunter said he is grateful to the host cities, but for the next round, the field is wide open.