ASPEN - This year's USA Pro Challenge presents a new sort of challenge for local communities - restricting vehicular access in and out of both Aspen and Snowmass Village for roughly five hours during the middle of the day in order to stage a circuit race for pro riders.
The third running of the pro cycling race across Colorado will begin in Aspen with the circuit race on Aug. 19. The following day, Stage 2 will take competitors from Aspen to Breckenridge via Independence Pass. Exact routes for the seven-stage race won't be announced until spring, but organizers and the city of Aspen are already brainstorming on how best to stage the circuit race. They'll brief Pitkin County commissioners on Tuesday.
Three variations on the circuit course have been identified; racers are expected to lap the course three to five times.
The preferred route would take riders from downtown Aspen to the roundabout and then up Maroon Creek Road, across the Tiehack bridge, down Tiehack Road to Highway 82 and left into the upvalley lanes of Highway 82 to Owl Creek Road. From there, competitors would ride up Owl Creek to the roundabout in Snowmass Village and return to the highway via Brush Creek Road. The course would then take riders upvalley on the highway to Smith Hill Way and then to McLain Flats Road and Cemetery Lane, ultimately returning to downtown Aspen via city streets.
Road closures from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. are anticipated, though riders are expected to complete their multiple loops of the circuit in roughly 31⁄2 hours, said Cindy Houben, director of community development for Pitkin County.
"It would take you and I days," she quipped.
The proposal calls for shutting down access via private vehicles to Aspen and Snowmass Village during the road closures with the exception of access to Aspen Valley Hospital and the airport, though long delays are expected. Emergency vehicles would not be subject to the closures.
Options to tweak the preferred course involve a climb through Brush Creek Village, a subdivision off Brush Creek Road, via Medicine Bow and Juniper Hill roads and traveling down the highway to Lower River Road before heading back upvalley through Woody Creek to McLain Flats Road.
The proposals would put vehicular traffic on the downvalley side of Highway 82, with one lane of travel in each direction, allowing racers to use the upvalley lanes, Houben said.
An application for a special-event permit for the local components of this year's USA Pro Challenge will be forthcoming to Pitkin County. Tuesday's discussion will seek county commissioner feedback on minimizing the impact of road closures and travel delays to residents and businesses along the route and on how best to reach out to the public about the impacts.
Organizers propose meeting with various neighborhood caucuses and homeowners associations before reporting back to commissioners on March 12. After that meeting, the city will submit a formal special-events application to the county, Houben said.