Bike race brings fans, others into Aspen
August 25, 2011
ASPEN – Predictions that tens of thousands of USA Pro Cycling Challenge spectators would flood Aspen turned out to be false, but events throughout town were still a hit with locals and visitors Wednesday.
From around 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., hundreds of people milled around the 50 or so vendor booths at Wagner Park, and a few even danced under the drizzle to the brass-jam sounds of Filthy Children, a seven-piece Denver group. The funky band was hitting its stride at 2 p.m. with the Bill Withers tune “Use Me” when strong southern winds and light rain threatened to push over tents, heralding the end of the show.
Members of the crowd then drifted toward the Jumbotron in the northwest corner of the park near an Escobar cocktail booth and a Sierra Nevada draft beer truck. Despite poor digital video quality and the occasional screen flash with the words “no signal,” the oohs and aahs went up in unison as people caught glimpses of the professional cyclists making their way over the top of Independence Pass.
Robert Blanton, a 52-year-old visitor from the Denver area, got a kick out of watching the riders on screen as they made their way up to the top of the pass, with spectators running alongside them.
“It looks like they’re having a lot more fun up there than we are down here,” he said. “But this is a great event, and I hope it comes back next year. I’m glad it’s not hot; too bad it had to rain a bit.”
Nearby, a BGV Marketing representative was using a microphone and speaker to lure people inside his tent, which contained several laptops. Those who signed their names and other personal data into the computer system will be eligible to win a Cannondale bicycle worth more than $2,000. For every name and address logged into the laptops, Quizno’s, the primary sponsor of the race, will donate $1 to Denver’s Road Home, a charity with a 10-year plan to end homelessness in the city.
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The BGV booth was the Wagner Park hot spot, maybe because of its game show-style spinning wheel that offered the promise of other big prizes. As it turned out, there were only two immediate returns: a cheap plastic bead or a plastic bicycle bell.
But just after 3 p.m., as the crowd was making its way from the front of the Jumbotron to Main Street to watch the finish of the Aspen stage of the bike race, a small controversy ensued near the BGV booth.
“I’m getting sick and tired of hearing you on that microphone,” an inebriated older man yelled at the marketing representative, who asked to omit his name from the news story.
When the drunken man tried to snatch the microphone off the man’s head and placed his hands on the other man’s chest, he got a shove to the ground. Security officers escorted the drunken man, who was not injured, away from the park.
While the food and booze vendors at Wagner Park didn’t exactly break the bank, there were brief sales rushes: Sherman Workman of Carbondale was making and selling sandwiches and other items at the Nicky’s Quickie booth on the park’s southern end. A Minturn company specializing in Greek food, Nicky’s Quickie planned to be in Vail Thursday to serve food to spectators during the race’s third stage.
“We were doing well until the rain came and dispersed people a little bit,” he said. “Hopefully after the racers come into town, people will start coming back to the park.”
Grand Junction resident Jamie Garza, 24, who drove to the Brush Creek Intercept Lot with her boyfriend Tuesday morning and then took the bus to Aspen, said she was enjoying the mild weather and didn’t mind the rain. She said she especially enjoyed the hula hooping activity that Betty Hoops Dance Therapy set up in a corner of the park earlier in the day.
Like others, she said she wished that she had taken the extra time to drive up Independence Pass to watch the race, but their decision to come to Aspen was last-minute.
“You can tell by watching the TV monitor [in Wagner Park] that the people partying and watching the race on top of the pass are having a better time,” she said. “If they do this next year, that’s what I’ll do.”
With the racers descending into Aspen amid big cheers and the park nearly empty, the workers stationed in front of the Sierra Nevada truck seized the opportunity to play drinking games among themselves.