Cyclists storm back into Aspen after hiatus
Three of the area’s top racers, all grouped less than a bicycle length apart, sped across the finish line Sunday to cap off a morning of bicycling action not seen in downtown Aspen in more than a decade.
Lycra-clad, skinny-tire speedsters raced through the streets of town during the Aspen Cycling Club’s Criterium, a timed event that featured four individual races, one pile-up and one missed turn that sent a racer into the cheering section, but no serious injuries.
Many of the same cyclists who pumped their way up the 10-mile Ride for the Pass on Saturday were back for Sunday’s wholly different challenge: Lapping a tight course with 10 turns spread over 9/10ths of a mile.
Most of the spectators gathered along Hyman Avenue between Mill and Monarch streets, yelling “go, go” and the French equivalent, “allez, allez,” as racers zipped past the Hub of Aspen and rounded the Wheeler Opera House corner. The start/finish line was in front of the Hub bike shop.
“It’s good to see. Sunday in the offseason. Why not? Nothing else going on,” said Chris Casper, watching the action from the curb.
The Hub organized the last downtown bike race in Aspen, back in 1991, according to shop owner Charlie Tarver, but longtime residents remember when events like the Coors Classic and the Red Zinger brought world-class talent to race here.
“I’d love to see those days come back,” said City Councilman Terry Paulson.
In the elite, Senior Men’s A division, Butch Peterson claimed victory yesterday, with Rishi Grewal in second and Charlie Eckart in third. The trio led the pack by about 15 seconds, averaging 1-minute, 50-second laps.
Carole Sharp was first across the line in Senior Women’s A. Five racers in her wake failed to finish after the only crash of the day. Molly Jones, Heather Lafferty, Kathy Fry, Laura Morris and Kelley Mattingly were on the final lap of the Senior Women’s A race when a racer reportedly scraped the pavement with a pedal coming out of the turn from Hopkins onto Aspen Street. She skidded and went down; two others crashed as well. The other two racers stopped to help, according to Morris.
“It was scary,” said Jones, who carried her crippled bicycle across the finish line on her shoulder. “We were all in a tight pack the whole race. It was a great race just the same.”
No one was seriously hurt, though Morris was cradling her arm and contemplating getting an X-ray to make sure it wasn’t broken.
“My bike was like, in the bushes. I couldn’t even find it,” she said. “That’s the best I’ve ever ridden. It’s too bad we didn’t finish.”
The only other close call came when a racer crossed the finish line at top speed and then failed to make the Wheeler corner, riding beneath the yellow warning tape and up onto the mall. He cut a turn in front of Hillis Furs and returned to the pavement. Though the corner was frequently lined with spectators, no one was injured.
For complete results of Aspen Cycling Club racing, see its Web site at aspencyclingclub.org.
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Officials are investigating the source of a loud explosion at Smuggler Mine on Saturday morning.