Aspen and Snowmass to host bike race in August

Aspen and Snowmass to host bike race in August
Curtis Wackerle
Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
December 20, 2012

Aspen will host the USA Pro Challenge cycling race next summer for the third year in a row and this time, it’s taking Snowmass along for the ride.

The opening stage of August 2013’s seven-day race, which aims to be the Tour de France of North America, will feature a circuit between Aspen and Snowmass Village on Monday, Aug. 19. Riders will begin the second day in Aspen on a leg that ends in Breckenridge.

The announcement concerning 2013’s host cities was made Wednesday morning in The Little Nell hotel in Aspen. Representatives of most of the stops along the 700-some-mile tour were on hand, as was race CEO Shawn Hunter.

Hunter thanked the Aspen/Snowmass community for its support, singling out city of Aspen special events director Nancy Lesley, whom he called a “rockstar” and “the real reason why we are coming back for our third year.”

Aspen’s was one of the seven bids selected out of at least 19 submitted by cities throughout Colorado in mid-November. Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County commissioners in November held separate executive sessions under the state open meetings law legal description of “negotiations” to privately discuss their bid packages to race organizers.

Race organizers have yet to announce the exact routes for the stages. Snowmass Village Mayor Bill Boineau said it’s likely the circuit will take riders from Aspen along Owl Creek Road and then back down Brush Creek Road and up Highway 82. There are likely to be multiple laps between the two towns to open the race.

The next day’s stage between Aspen and Breckenridge is likely to cross Independence Pass, which has been a feature of the race the last two years, but officials would not say for sure.

As to whether camping on top of the pass — which was allowed in 2011 but not in 2012 — will be back for 2013, Hunter said that is a discussion the race organizers plan to have with the Forest Service, which manages the land at the top of the pass.

“Obviously we’d like to see that return,” Hunter said, citing the huge crowds and festive atmosphere of 2011; 2012 experienced smaller crowds with the no-roadside-camping policy.

He said that in 2011, the thousands of people who gathered on top of the pass to watch the race, many of whom camped out to secure their spots, “left it better than they found it.”

Forest Service officials had relaxed normal car-camping restrictions on the pass for the 2011 race. In announcing that they would not allow car camping in 2012, officials said they were doing so out of concern about permanent damage to the high-alpine tundra at the top of the pass.

Organizers claimed that some 1 million total spectators watched the race in person last year, and that the event had a $100 million economic impact through spending by spectators and race personnel. The race also was broadcast to 175 countries last year.

“This is a magnificent community asset that showcases our state to the world,” Hunter said. He thanked Rick and Richard Schaden, two Colorado businessmen who fund the race.

“To pull off an event like this it takes vision, it takes a big balance sheet and it takes patience,” said Hunter, who later added that the race is a “not for profit” in its first few years.

In 2011 and 2012, the city of Aspen’s portion of the race required a public subsidy of $125,000 and $166,000, respectively, for expenses that were not covered by sponsorship and VIP ticket sales. The local lodging community also contributed hundreds of free or reduced-price rooms.

With the race beginning in Aspen and Snowmass this year, racers and other event personnel will be showing up in town early, meaning local lodges will need to reserve more rooms at a discounted rate for the event.

Bill Tomcich, president of central bookings agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, wrote in an email Wednesday that having the initial stage here will require more collaboration with the lodging community, but also will mean more days of guaranteed revenue to hotels, since most of the rooms will be paid for, albeit at a discounted rate.

“Instead of a one-night stay midweek as was required the past two years to host a stage finish and/or start that was generously supported by the Aspen lodging community, next year’s overall start requires up to 750 room-nights for a minimum of three consecutive nights beginning that Saturday, and nearly 100 rooms for up to six nights beginning the Wednesday prior,” Tomcich wrote. “I wanted to thank the Snowmass lodging community for their enthusiastic support of this successful bid because there is no way this would be possible without them.”

The details related to the local organizing committee’s costs to put on the 2013 event, as well as contributions from local lodges, are still to be worked out, Lesley said.

“A lot of conversations are now beginning in earnest,” she said.

After day two of the race, the next stage will take racers from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs. Day four goes from Steamboat to Beaver Creek, where the stage repeats last year’s uphill finish to the base of the Beaver Creek ski area. Day five repeats 2011’s time trial up Vail Pass; day six is a tour of northern Colorado encompassing Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park; and the final day is a circuit through Denver.