Bike race good for Aspen’s soul |

Bike race good for Aspen’s soul

Aspen got a chance to shine again Wednesday, even in the drizzle, when men’s professional bicycle racing returned to town for the first time since the late 1980s.

The experience on Independence Pass is the buzz of the town. Locals who made the trip said it exceeded their expectations because of the festive atmosphere and the opportunity to be so close to the action at a critical point in the race.

The experience in town was cool as well. Aspen represented itself well when thousands of jubilant spectators banged on metal barriers as six racers barreled toward the finish line in a final sprint for victory.

We know there are some proprietors disappointed with the day’s business results. We urge them to be patient and not judge the value of the event from the inaugural year’s bottom line. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will only get stronger. The buzz will grow, and the crowds will get larger in future years. (The co-owner of the event said he would like Aspen to be a frequent stop for the race.)

Here’s some other observations of the race:

• Some who hoped to shop the expos after the race finish were disappointed to find the tents down and the merchandise boxed up. There was room to keep the buzz going for psyched spectators.

• We heard praise about the DJ at the post-race Hopkins Avenue street party, but disappointment from patrons who could not leave the enclosure with their beers.

• Kudos on the placement of 15 portable toilets at the summit of Independence Pass. There was never a line to use one and they remained stocked with toilet paper.

• Hats off to the Hotel Jerome for running such a well-organized media center.

• Hopefully the Versus television network learned some valuable lessons about covering a bike race in Colorado’s mountains. The signal was scrambled for a good share of Wednesday’s race, including most of the critical descent down Independence Pass.

• Someone should have removed the bar code price tags from the flower bouquets presented to the three racers who earned the podium.

• Officials offered lofty projections that 25,000 to 50,000 people would be in Aspen to watch the race. While there’s been no formal head count, some officials say the crowd didn’t come close to approaching the 22,000 to 23,000 who were in Aspen for the Fourth of July. Perhaps the high-attendance forecast spooked away potential visitors.

• Local law enforcement, from the Aspen Police Department to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the fire stations, did an excellent job controlling the crowd and managing the event in the case of an emergency.

Overall, organizers did a good job planning for race day events and preparing for the influx of thousands of visitors. We hope the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will return next year and the city’s organizing committee will make the necessary adjustments to put on an even better show.

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