Monument gets push as 2012 Quiznos bike leg
Aspen CO Colorado
The inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge will bring pro cycling through Aspen in August, but the push among Colorado communities to host a leg of the coveted event in 2012 is already heating up.
Colorado’s governor and a U.S. senator have joined the battle, siding with those who would like to see a stage of the 2012 event take place at the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction – a place under consideration for national park status.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall have sent a letter to John Wessels, director of the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service, asking him to convene a meeting to consider whether to hold a stage of the cycling race in the monument. Organizers are looking at 2012, said a spokesperson in Udall’s office.
The letter urges Wessels to organize a meeting between the monument’s superintendent, Joan Anzelmo, and members of a local organizing committee in an attempt to reach agreement on staging a leg of the race at the monument, after the committee’s initial proposal for 2012 was turned down.
The Colorado National Monument, in far western Colorado, is an area of deep canyons and rocky spires. Its Rim Rock Drive climbs up and over the area from both the Grand Junction and Fruita sides. Plenty of Aspen-area road bikers make the monument a destination, particularly in the springtime, for a loop over the monument and around its base.
A previous proposal to host a stage of the 2012 bike race there, with three laps around the monument, was rejected in December, though local organizers argued the monument’s precipitous cliffs and winding road would be the highlight of the bike race, according to a report in the Grand Junction Sentinel.
The National Park Service rejected the proposal because of concerns about the potential effects on the area’s native vegetation and fragile soil and wildlife, including bighorn sheep and eagles. Joan Anzelmo, superintendent of the monument, said Monday that organizers have estimated the race could draw 30,000 to 50,000 people to the area.
However, Park Service officials are reviewing a new proposal from local organizers and have asked to meet with them the first week in March.
“To have a mega sports event like this typically is not compatible with the natural and cultural resources of a national park site,” Anzelmo said. “We’re looking at what could potentially work and what definintely cannot work.”
“If the monument is able to responsibly host the event while protecting its natural and cultural resources, we believe that showcasing this majestic area as part of this world-class cycling event will bring beneficial commerce and attention to this important part of the state,” said the letter to Wessels.
Hosting the race there would also add to the stature of efforts to designate the monument as a national park, the letter said. Sen. Udall has been fielding comments on that proposal.
The 32-square-mile park was designated a monument in May 1911, and is marking its 100th anniversary this year.
In the 1980s, the monument hosted a stage of the Coors International Bike Classic, a pro event that was also a fixture in Aspen before it ended. The push to bring a major stage race back to Colorado, reminiscent of the Coors Classic, is credited to pro bicyclist and part-time Aspen resident Lance Armstrong, who expressed interest to former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter last year. Armstrong’s team has signed up to take part.
The seven-stage Quiznos event, making its debut this summer, will bring pro bicycling to 11 Colorado communities. On Aug. 24, the third stage will bring 128 riders from Gunnison to Aspen via a route that takes them over both Cottonwood and Independence passes.
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