Mayor: Aspen will bid for 2012 Pro Cycling Challenge | AspenTimes.com

Mayor: Aspen will bid for 2012 Pro Cycling Challenge

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado

Fans cheer riders as they climb up the east side of Independence Pass during the 2013 USA Pro Challenge. The upcoming event, held from Aug. 17 to Aug. 23, includes two summits of the pass between Aspen and Leadville.

ASPEN – Pitching Aspen as an overnight stop on next year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge and hosting a downtown party/concert to keep the buzz going outside racing hours are on the community’s radar as it prepares a bid for next year’s event, according to Mayor Mick Ireland.Organizers of the inaugural Pro Cycling Challenge, a week-long event that wrapped up Sunday in Denver, anticipate an onslaught of interest from Colorado communities that didn’t see a stage of the tour this year. In addition, they’re likely to hear a clamor from this year’s host towns, which are eager to draw the pro bicycling event for a repeat performance. Count Aspen among the latter, Ireland said Tuesday.Aspen apparently already holds a strong position to host the event in future years – race co-owner Richard F. Schaden was singing the resort’s praises after the epic Queen Stage of last week’s Challenge brought riders from Gunnison to Aspen via two mountain passes.”I think Aspen will always be one of the [host] cities,” Schaden told The Aspen Times.Community officials are already thinking about how to improve upon this year’s success, according to Ireland, who indicated that there’s no doubt Aspen will make a bid to host the event again in 2012. Ireland and fellow members of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors on Tuesday engaged in an informal evaluation of Aspen’s day in the Pro Cycling Challenge spotlight and on how the resort can do better next time.The event lost steam after the conclusion of racing on Main Street, said board chairman Warren Klug, suggesting a party to keep the buzz going.”There’s needs to be a great celebration in town,” he said.With the expo in Wagner Park closed up by the time the race finished, the post-race scene was anticlimactic, Ireland agreed.Local organizers worked with Michael Goldberg, owner of Belly Up Aspen, in the hopes of arranging a downtown concert after the race, but coming up with an act that would give the nightclub owner some assurance of covering his costs proved difficult, Ireland said.The town of Breckenridge played host to a free concert by Colorado band Big Head Todd & the Monsters after a stage of the tour ended there two days later.Pedestrian mobility during Aspen’s event also left room for improvement. Ireland said a scaffold-like bridge, allowing people to cross in and out of a closed loop that was put in place for a pro women’s criterium, may be considered. The women raced before the arrival of the Pro Cycling Challenge riders. Street closures also made it difficult to maneuver during the men’s race.The inability to cross streets has been the source of some complaints, Ireland said.Klug urged organizers to consider some sort of circuit finish for the men next year, having them loop through the core a few times. That would give spectators a better chance to see them ride through downtown Aspen – “rather than just zoom by once and that’s it,” he said.A different route through town, and bidding to have Aspen as an overnight stop are under consideration, according to Ireland. It’s possible to work out a route that brings riders into Aspen from the west one day, and has them leave via Independence Pass the next morning. The pass, where 3,000-plus spectators staked out a spot to watch competitors climb up from the Twin Lakes side last week, is actually a steeper climb from the Aspen side, the mayor noted.Having Aspen host a later stage will also be suggested, Ireland said. This year, riders arrived in Aspen at the close of the second stage of the tour, after a prologue in Colorado Springs and stage 1 race from Salida to Crested Butte. The Gunnison-to-Aspen stage – a 131-mile ride over two 12,000-plus-foot passes – was arguably the most difficult. Stage 3, the following day, was a time trial up Vail Pass.”What breaks a race apart in biking is a mountain stage,” Ireland said. “The race was basically decided after Vail. That will be our argument.”Wouldn’t it be great if they could come here on Friday night and leave on Saturday?” he mused.The local organizing committee for the bike race will meet Wednesday to assess this year’s event, and the Aspen City Council is scheduled to hold a post-race discussion on Sept. 20. The results of a city survey of businesses on the impact of the event should be compiled by then.The tour did not sell out the town’s hotel rooms, Klug said, but some guests did book rooms at his Aspen Square Condo Hotel specifically because of the bicycling.”It was not overwhelming occupancy, but it brought some folks in,” he said.Local accommodations were about 75 percent full, according to Ireland, but a third of Aspen’s lodging was provided free or at deep discounts to the event as a condition of hosting a stage.The Little Nell set aside 32 rooms, according to general manager John Speers, but only six actually wound up being used.”We held a lot of rooms, there were a lot of last-minute changes, and they all sat empty,” he said.Restaurants that braced for hordes may not have done as well as they expected, added Debbie Braun, ACRA president. Some ordered extra food for business that did not materialize, but have expressed support for the event nonetheless, she said.”Some of them took it in the shorts, but even those restaurants acknowledged the race was a great thing, and it needs to happen again next year,” she said.Kenny Smith, a retail representative on the ACRA board, said he didn’t see a spike in business but sees the value in hosting future races.”Any retailer who has a big-picture vision can see that it’s great for Aspen,” he said.Millions of people saw coverage of the racing on television, and resort officials expect interest to grow.”People saw the energy and support of the rabid fans in Colorado. They’re going to come here next year and the year after,” predicted David Perry, Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president and an ACRA board member.The community had a budget of $190,000 to support this year’s event, according to Ireland, who expects VIP ticket sales, sponsorships and sales tax revenues to whittle that number down to $100,000 or less.”That’s the best hundred grand we’ve ever spent,” he said.”I’ve never seen that level of happiness,” Ireland said. “You couldn’t walk around town without people telling you how happy they were. That’s not an Aspen tradition.”

Television viewers and spectators in downtown Aspen who watched the USA Pro Cycling Challenge action on Independence Pass unfold on big screens last week saw little of the riders’ screaming descent down the pass.Aspen Chamber Resort Association officials would like to see what everybody missed.The television broadcast hit a snag when an airplane used to help transmit the images developed an icing problem and had to depart. Cameras mounted on the backs of motorcycles and a helicopter shot footage to be relayed to the airplane, which then was to relay the signals to a production compound for broadcast. The images transmitted from the pass were often scrambled and then disappeared altogether as a result of the technological difficulties, but the ACRA has been told that footage does exist, according to Julia Theisen, vice president of marketing and sales for the chamber.Chamber officials have asked Medalist Sports, organizer of the event, to provide a copy of whatever footage does exist of the stage that took riders over Independence Pass and into Aspen.”I’m dying to see it,” Theisen said.The ACRA wants to evaluate the return it got on its investment of $50,000 in funding for the event, including television coverage, but Theisen said she wasn’t sure the chamber would have any rights to rebroadcast the images.The USA Pro Cycling Challenge was featured in daily broadcasts on the Versus network, including live coverage from Aspen, though the local broadcast was spotty. TV viewers found themselves watching random scenes of Aspen when they were expecting to see the riders coming down the pass.”People were a little disappointed in the quality of the footage,” Theisen said.janet@aspentimes.com

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