CDOT will ease camping, parking rules during race
ASPEN – Parking and camping rules will be temporarily eased along Highway 82 over Independence Pass on Wednesday, Aug. 24, to let bicycle racing fans get up close and personal with the riders.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced Monday it will make one-time exceptions to its rules “for those who wish to mimic the spirit of the European-style bicycle race by camping next to state highways in order to watch the race from the immediate sidelines.”
CDOT spokeswoman Ashley Mohr said race fans are passionate about being close to the action. In Europe, tens of thousands of spectators are jammed along roads, especially on the climbs up classic passes. When pro bike racing last visited Colorado in the late 1980s during the Coors International Bicycle Classic, spectators also got accustomed to being close to the action along streets and roads.
“We wanted to uphold the spirit of the race,” Mohr said.
The exceptions will apply to all the highways that the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will use during its week in Colorado. CDOT said camping and parking along highway right of ways will be allowed under the following conditions:
• Vehicles can park 24 hours or less in advance of when the race goes past that location. Any vehicle taking a position more than 24 hours in advance will be forced to move.
• All vehicles and trailers must be parked entirely off the traveled portion of the highway and paved shoulders. No safety risk can be posed to other motorists before the event.
• All debris and trash must be removed promptly after the race passes.
CDOT and troopers from the Colorado State Patrol will monitor vehicles to make sure they are complying with the restrictions, Mohr said. CDOT wanted to get the word out in advance to boost compliance.
The second stage of the Pro Cycling Challenge ends in Aspen on Aug. 24. The “Queen Stage,” as it is being billed by organizers, starts in Gunnison, crosses Cottonwood Pass, descends into Buena Vista, meanders up the Arkansas River Valley before turning onto Highway 82 toward Twin Lakes and crawling over Independence Pass.
Mohr said eastbound traffic on Highway 82 over Independence Pass will be closed from 11 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. on race day. Westbound traffic from the Twin Lakes side will be closed from 11 a.m. to approximately 2 p.m. However, even after traffic is allowed onto the pass, the going will be slow. Traffic will be behind racers, team cars, race officials cars and other race-related vehicles.
“It will be slow going but it will at least be moving,” Mohr said.
CDOT’s decision to ease camping and parking rules will likely figure into the strategy of some race fans, said Mark Joseph, the technical director for the Aspen stage. Some people are weighing whether to go for the “natural view” on the pass or stay in Aspen for the “circus view,” he said. The decision comes down to how much of the race a person wants to watch and the type of experience they prefer.
For those that want the natural view, the best stretch is toward the top of the climb on the east side of Independence Pass, Joseph said. It will be “incredible” to watch what the world’s best riders are capable of in circumstances that make recreational riders wince in pain, he said. While mere mortals fight their way up the pass in their small chain ring and their granny gear, the pros will be in their big chain rings.
“When they go by they are going so fast,” Joseph said. “You get up close and personal for a quick little snippet.”
He advised spectators against taking the trouble to go up the pass to watch the descent into Aspen from the summit because the racers will whiz by so fast. There won’t be much to see.
People who want to tailgate before the event and be in prime position during the climb were the big winners from Monday’s announcement. There will likely be a dash in late morning Tuesday for the prime roadside positions. Joseph said roadside parties are a tradition at all the major European races.
“People bring all sort of things to entertain themselves with, which I won’t get into,” he said with a chuckle.
In Aspen, spectators will be able to catch a lot more of the action. A Jumbotron will be showing the race at Wagner Park, where there will also a carnival atmosphere with food and vendor booths, a beer garden and a nearby street fair. Approximately two hours of the race will be shown on the Versus channel. Joseph expects spectators to be stacked at least five deep along the approach to the finish line at the Pitkin County Courthouse.
“It will just be a great day in town,” he said.
Aspenite Raifie Bass flirted with the idea of watching the race from Independence Pass. His initial thought was stowing a camper along the route, then riding with his family to the camper and watching from there.
He reconsidered because of logistics hassles. He and his family will watch the racers go by from a friend’s lawn in east Aspen, then whip inside to watch the conclusion on television.
To get into race spirit, Bass and his two sons plan to camp in the Crested Butte area this weekend and travel over Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass to get a feel for the Queen Stage route. The racers will cross both the passes, which exceed 12,000 feet in elevation, in one day.
Bass is also among the Aspenites planning to make the trip to Vail for the Thursday, Aug. 25 individual time trial.
The easing of parking restrictions was welcomed by Aspenite Bill Madsen, who is part of a group that intend to ride their bikes up Independence Pass on race day and catch the action east of the summit. The last four miles of the climb is where a racer will likely launch an attack and try to drop competitors, he noted.
Madsen and his group plan to stash a vehicle in a strategic spot on the pass so they have food, beverages and warm clothing for the event.
Madsen said as many as 20 friends plan to make the trip. “It depends on how many can get off work,” he said. “I hope a lot of them call in sick.”
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