The Coors International Bicycle Classic (1980–1988) was a stage race sponsored by the Coors Brewing Company. Coors was the race's second sponsor; the first, Celestial Seasonings, named the race after its premium tea Red Zinger, which began in 1975. Over the years, the event became America's national tour, listed as the fourth largest race in the world after the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, and Vuelta a España. The race grew from 3 days of racing in its first years as the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic to 2 weeks in the later Coors Classic years. Race stages were held in Colorado in the early years expanding first from Boulder and Denver back to the Keystone ski resort, later adding Estes Park, Vail, Aspen and Grand Junction, before further expansion that included Wyoming, Nevada, California and Hawaii. All but the last year the race concluded with a short circuit in North Boulder Park. On August 4, 2010 Colorado governor Bill Ritter and cycling legend Lance Armstrong announced that they would revive stage racing in Colorado with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. It was a seven-day race held in August 2011.
Over the next eight years, the Coors Classic grew into two weeks of racing in California, Nevada, and Colorado, with stages in some years in Hawaii and Wyoming. The race's legendary merchandise had custom annual graphics, sold in every state (and even Japan and England), generating $1 million in 1987 and $1.5 million in 1988 in sales to help support the race.
The Red Zinger and Coors Classic stage races showcased world-class men and women's cycling throughout the scenic terrain of Colorado, California, Nevada, Wyoming, and Hawaii. The race was considered the fourth biggest race on the world cycling calendar and was ground-breaking as the single biggest women's stage race ever held.
The Coors Classic launched the careers of some of the world's greatest cyclists and paved the way for the sport's growth in the U.S.
- The Coors International Bicycle Classic had many storied stages, including the world-renowned Morgul-Bismarck circuit. The site of the Grand Junction, Colorado, road race, the Colorado National Monument, was so exotic in appearance that the stage became known as "The Tour of the Moon" and was even featured in the Warner Brothers movie American Flyers. One recurring stage near Snowmass, Colorado, was run up "Suicide Hill", a road so steep that it was heated in the winter. Races were run over mountains such as the Vail, Independence, and McClure Passes in Colorado. Popular recurring stages in California included San Francisco-area events such as a hill climb up to famed Coit Tower for a prologue and the Fisherman's Wharf Criterium and a road stage crossing the Sierra Nevada range. One year the race also started in Hawaii's Big Island in Hilo with a volcano circuit road race that had to be rerouted a month before the event when the perimeter road course was cut off by a lava flow from Kilauea. Another year a stage went from Wyoming's capitol, Cheyenne, to Colorado's capitol, Denver. The race finished every year but its last in North Boulder Park.
- The Red Zinger/Coors Classic served as an inspiration for a youth bicycle road racing series in Colorado called the Red Zinger Mini Classics, which ran from 1981–1992, serving as a springboard for the development of several professional cyclists, including pro great Bobby Julich.
Coors Classic firsts and noted accomplishments
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According to the liner notes from the 2006 DVD Red Zinger/Coors Classic (produced by race director Michael Aisner), the following are some interesting facts about this race:
- The Coors Classic was the biggest men’s pro-am and women’s race in the world
- Credited by the Tour de France for inspiring their addition of a women’s division
- Grew to have 13 full-time staff, 150 paid race-time staff, with a 300 race-week traveling crew
- "Classic"-branded merchandise sales exceeded $1 million each year for 2 years; sales in Japan alone were over $100,000
- First event to close a U.S. National Park (Colorado National Monument) and Coit Tower road in San Francisco
- Created unique, reverse swivel-seat BMW camerabike to interest network TV coverage
- Received network rights fees and aired on CBS, NBC, and ESPN
- John Tesh’s first network sports assignment (CBS), leading him to Emmy Awards for his Tour de France work
- It hosted Olympic teams just before the Los Angeles Olympiad
- Biggest women's race in the world, hosting stars like Olympic champions Connie Carpenter, Jeannie Longo, Beth Heiden and Rebecca Twigg
- Commemorative race pennants were placed on space shuttle Challenger. NASA legal later saw the corporate Coors name and removed it just before launch
- A million Coors Classic drink napkins promoting the race were distributed on Frontier Airlines and Continental Airlines planes as part of their race sponsorship
- Celebrities attending included President and First Lady Gerald and Betty Ford, John Denver, Bill Walton, Susan Saint James, Shaun Cassidy, George Will, Joe Morgan, and Wally Schirra
- Actor/comedian Robin Williams credits this race with inspiring his cycling fanaticism
- BMW cars and motorcycles were official race vehicles, and in 1988 a 325i was the top prize in the men's division. Race winner Davis Phinney handed the keys to his long-time coach and team director Jim Ochowicz
- Warner Bros. Studios secured exclusive theatrical rights for feature film American Flyers shot on location (in 1984) and based on the race, starring Kevin Costner
- Mighty Soviet (Olympic) and East Germans teams raced in the U.S. for the first time at the Coors Classic
- Live Colombia radio attended, and annually 150 media credentials were issued, many from foreign media
- Helped establish careers for cycling greats Greg LeMond, Davis Phinney, Connie Carpenter, Jeannie Longo, Rebecca Twigg, Jonathan Boyer, Phil Anderson, Steve Bauer, Andy Hampsten, Luis Herrera, and Raul Alcala
- Three five-time Tour de France winners attended as guests: Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, and Bernard Hinault (who rode the 1986 race as the last stage race of his illustrious career)
- Race director Aisner was included on the list of the ten most influential in world cycling by France’s L'Equipe newspaper, inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 2005, and received the Korbel Award
- Red Zinger/Coors Classic: Where It All Began, [3 disc DVD] Velo Gear, Inc. (2006)
- 2005 (U.S. Bicycling) Hall of Fame Inductees. Retrieved 5-30-2010
- "Inside Cycling: Aisner and the Coors Classic" from VeloNews[dead link]
-  "Pro Cycling News" Interview with Michael Aisner
- Celestial Seasonings corporate timeline
-  Red Zinger and Coors Classic posters and program publishing]
- A Classic Western Quarrel: A History of the Road Controversy at Colorado National Monument
- Pezcyclingnews interview of Michael Aisner by Matt Wood