Basalt in the plans for Pro Challenge |

Basalt in the plans for Pro Challenge

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

The USA Pro Challenge may be less than four months away, but that hasn’t stopped race officials from tweaking the cycling race’s course to include Basalt.

On Wednesday, the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners approved the conceptual review and request for a major special-event permit for the race, which tentatively includes having the course go through Basalt on the second day.

“We appreciated the fact that the community of Basalt actually wants us to pass through their town and asked us to do so,” said Chuck Hodge from Atlanta-based Medalist Sports. Hodge is the technical director of the race course. “I’m going to have to review that section of the road to make sure it’s appropriate. When we have a community that wants us to come through, we’re willing to do everything we can to make that happen.”

The first two days of the race take place on Aug. 18 and 19, with Aspen once again being designated as the starting town for the event. The Pro Challenge has gone through Aspen all four years of the race.

Stage One of the race will start at 1 p.m. and remains identical to last year’s course with a three-lap circuit beginning in Aspen. The course heads west onto Highway 82 to Owl Creek Road, from Owl Creek to Brush Creek Road into the town of Snowmass Village, back down Brush Creek Road heading east to Medicine Bow Road to Juniper Hill Road, crosses Highway 82 on Smith Hill Way to McLain Flats Road, and heads east to Cemetery Lane before returning to Aspen.

Stage Two also starts in Aspen and is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. The course will eventually access Highway 82 and head toward Basalt, where the tentative plan is to turn off Highway 82 into Basalt and proceed downvalley before intersecting with Highway 82 again. The course would then turn at Catherine Store and go through the town of Carbondale before accessing Highway 133 and heading toward McClure Pass. The route will go over Kebler Pass before reaching the Day Two finish at Mount Crested Butte.

Hodge said race officials will return to Aspen in June to do some course trials and to address any road repairs that may still be needed.

The race application was referred to all emergency service agencies, all affected governmental jurisdictions, caucuses, homeowner associations, neighborhood groups and businesses.

Race representatives also met with the towns of Basalt and Carbondale and the Forest Service to allow them to participate in the planning of the race.

The commissioners proposed a conceptual review at a work session in January with seven key points highlighted for discussion.

Those points included having a set route for both days that the public could rely on, acceptable time frames for traffic delays, total access to the hospital, accommodations for airport/flying public clearly outlined in advance of July 15, county road and bridge work requirements for the course known by July 15, respect for private property along the route through development of a monitoring and cleanup program, and a full sign-off by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office prior to final approval by the community development team.

All seven points were discussed or updated on Wednesday at the commissioners meeting.

Nancy Leslie, director of special events and marketing for Aspen, said there are already plans to communicate with local businesses that potentially could be affected by the two-day event.

“We’re trying to brainstorm with them and find ways to keep those businesses open,” Leslie said. “We’re trying to give them as much information as possible.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol are still working out plans for traffic closures and rerouting of traffic during the race.

John Hocker, from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, said RFTA was happy with the way Day One of the race played out for them in 2013.

“We don’t think it’ll be too bad as long as the rolling closures don’t last more than 15-20 minutes along Highway 82,” Hocker said. “We’ll have plenty of advance warning to our riders with electronic signs and notices at bus stops all through the valley. If the closures do last longer than 20 minutes, our customers will be asking questions.”

Leslie said she’d continue to give the commissioners biweekly race updates with a final approval for the race details expected to come in late July.