Pitkin County board delays action on bike tour through Aspen
May 11, 2017
Organizers of a European-style bicycle tour will have to wait until at least next week to find out if they can route 350 riders through Aspen and Pitkin County in June.
Pitkin County commissioners postponed taking action on the Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2017 application Wednesday because of concerns about cyclists riding into Aspen and the roundabout west of town during rush hour just two days before the busy Fourth of July weekend begins.
"I'm significantly concerned about riders coming though town with all that traffic leaving town in the afternoon," Commissioner Patti Clapper said. "It comes down to rider safety in my mind."
Board Chairman George Newman agreed, saying that even though city of Aspen officials have declined to allow riders on city trails, the route down Main Street to the Owl Creek Road intersection is a deal-breaker.
"There's going to have to be a compromise," Newman said. "Main Street and the roundabout are unacceptable."
Commissioners scheduled a special meeting May 16 on the bike tour application in hopes of trying to figure out a better route through Aspen by then.
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The Mavic Haute Route is a "gran fondo"-style bike ride that will wind through Colorado from June 24 to 30, according to the organization's website and event director Chandler Smith.
Organizers are expecting 75 percent of the riders to come from Europe to take part in the event, which will feature full rider support and even massages as part of the package, he said.
Riders are scheduled to start the June 28 leg, which is 102 miles, in Avon, ride up the Lake County side of Independence Pass, come through Aspen on Main Street to Owl Creek Road and end up in Snowmass Village for the night, said Mike Kraemer, Pitkin County planner. The riders will stay in hotels in Snowmass Village overnight, he said.
The next morning at 6:30, the riders will leave Snowmass Village via Divide Road, head to Snowmass Creek Road then to Capitol Creek Road to East Sopris Creek Road to West Sopris Creek Road to Prince Creek Road to Highway 133 and over McClure Pass, Kraemer said.
That portion of the ride would feature two timed sections, he said. The first will be between Old Snowmass and Prince Creek Divide and the second will be up McClure Pass on Highway 133. They will finish the 106-mile leg in Crested Butte.
Commissioners also were concerned that the timed phases would be akin to a race where riders would group into pelotons and cause traffic delays. Smith, however, said riders would have electronic chips that would keep track of the times and will have to observe the rules of the road, including riding single file or no more than two abreast.
An unpaved portion of Divide Road also caused consternation among county board members. But again, Smith said 20 percent of the ride's route is made up of gravel or dirt roads at the request of ride sponsor, Mavic, which has recently introduced a wheel made for riding those rougher conditions.
The ride also will feature a significant Colorado State Patrol presence as well as mandatory nightly briefings about the upcoming route to make sure riders know what to do, Smith said.
Tour participants — which will also feature 100 to 150 support staff for a total of about 500 people — are a mature, affluent group who are not big partiers, he said.
A special-events committee made up of fire, law enforcement, planning staff and others met with a similar city of Aspen group and approved the application, Kraemer said. City officials did not want riders on trails, which could prove difficult in rerouting riders off Main Street, he said.
Commissioner Steve Child, however, suggested a different route that would direct riders through Aspen's West End, down Power Plant Road to Cemetery Lane, down a brief portion of the bike trail next to the Aspen Golf Club to the Owl Creek Road intersection.
Child and Newman also said they support biking events like the Mavic Haute Route.
"I'm very much in favor of this event," Child said. "We are very much a bicycling town."