Bike race: The good, the bad and the ugly
Aspen, CO, Colorado
As anyone not living under a rock in the upper Roaring Fork Valley would know, Aspen and Independence Pass served as a site for two stages of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Wednesday and Thursday.
Here’s what we believe worked – along with what didn’t.
Kudos to the city of Aspen, especially its special events and parks personnel, for focusing race-related festivities on Main Street this year. Moving the finish line to the Paepcke Park area made a lot of sense and gave people a more comfortable setting for hanging out while waiting for the riders to come down from the pass. Last year’s expo and beer garden at Wagner Park, several blocks from the finish line near the Pitkin County Courthouse, was a bit of a debacle, but the poor attendance could partially be blamed on bad weather. NOTE: Does everything have to be local? Bring Smashburger, a food vendor that was not here this year, back in 2013.
It was a great idea to hold a post-race concert in Wagner Park on Wednesday evening. It gave visitors and locals something to do once the third stage was a wrap. We would like to call into question the choice of bands. Anthem, a Denver outfit which describes itself as a “70s rock experience,” is pretty good at what they do, covering the classic hits of yesteryear. But the Aspen City Council approved $16,000 for the Wednesday night concert budget, a substantial sum that could have netted a more interesting musical choice with better planning. Should the race return to Aspen in 2013, we’d like to see a free concert by an established artist with original material. If it takes an extra $10,000 or $15,000, so be it. NOTE: No DJs or hip-hop artists, please.
By far, the worst planning decision associated with the event was the U.S. Forest Service (in conjunction with other local authorities) call to ban overnight roadside camping between mile-markers 56 and 66 atop Independence Pass. Also, the Forest Service served up some last-minute changes with regard to areas that were supposed to be available for day camping in that same stretch of Highway 82, and then went around waking up people as they rested before the race to force them to move their vehicles. Did the lame decisions lead to fewer campers and revelers atop the pass? You bet. Did they dampen the party atmosphere? Slightly. The fans adjusted to the changes, but they shouldn’t have had to. City officials can talk about all the great camping opportunities between Difficult and Lost Man campgrounds until they are blue in the face, but the truth is that race fans aren’t as excited about the downhill stretches. NOTE: The official excuses that campers would tear up the delicate tundra, or that too many of them affects the safety of the cyclists, doesn’t hold water.
There were way too many representatives of law-enforcement atop the pass. Were authorities afraid of some type of hooliganism akin to European soccer incidents? Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputies were by far the most accommodating and laid-back. The U.S. Forest Service is another story, and the Colorado State Patrol wasn’t far behind. As for in-town security, there were more than a few complaints about some of the zealous individuals temporarily hired to enforce street-crossing restrictions and the like. NOTE: It would make more sense to use Aspen Police, not private security, to enforce barricade and street-crossing infractions. Having Aspen Police pass out colored chalk at the summit of Independence Pass was not the best use of their time or taxpayer money.
A nifty iPad and iphone app allows users to watch the race and listen to commentators. It also supplies all sorts of helpful information about the riders along with quick blog updates about what’s happening in each stage of the race. NOTE: Technology is wonderful.
Mother Nature cooperated quite nicely this year compared with last year. It was cloudy and cool atop the pass, for the most part, with short bursts of sun and warmth. In town, the rain held off until late evening, but for some brief sprinkles. In short, there was nothing to complain about. NOTE: Ms. Nature, please continue along your helpful path and bring Aspen a lot of snow this winter.
Overall grade for the event: B-plus.
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The Aspen-based nonprofit Music Therapy of the Rockies has released a compilation of new veteran-written songs and will host a songwriting retreat for veterans in May.