Organizers getting Aspen ready for bike race | AspenTimes.com

Organizers getting Aspen ready for bike race

ASPEN – With less than a month to go until the USA Pro Cycling Challenge rides through Aspen, event organizers are busy nailing down final details.

Among those details is making sure that the Aspen community is well informed of how the two-day event will unfold.

“It will be very much like last year,” Nancy Lesley, director of special events and marketing for the city of Aspen, said Friday, during one of two community meetings at City Hall. “But what we want to do this year, what we learned, is that when those TV cameras roll in, we want it to really focus on Aspen.”

Toward that end, the city will be handing out chalk so that the community can join in the race festivities – by marking up the closed streets – even before the racers get to town.

“Instead of black asphalt, we want the word Aspen written in as many languages as possible, as many colors as possible, in as many ways as humanly possible.

“We have two days to really show off our town.”

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This year, Aspen will play host to both a stage start and stage finish: On Aug. 22, racers will end the “Silver Queen” stage – which begins in Gunnison and crosses over Cottonwood and Independence passes – in downtown Aspen; on Aug. 23, racers will travel from Aspen to Beaver Creek, again going over Independence Pass.

It is a change from last summer, when Aspen hosted only a stage finish. After that, city officials and community members fought hard to secure the next-day start.

Generally speaking, Lesley said, the event will look a lot like it did last year. Various streets will be closed beginning Tuesday afternoon and continuing through Thursday afternoon; Independence Pass will be closed to cars from 10:30 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m. Wednesday and again from 8:30 a.m. to approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Parking in downtown Aspen also will be limited, so spectators are encouraged to take the bus.

But transportation troubles shouldn’t deter people from participating in the day’s events. In fact, Lesley said, the city is hoping people will come out even before the racers start flying into town.

“It’s going to be a great day. … We’re hoping everyone will come out for some part of it,” Lesley said, adding that other community-related activities include a kids race, a citizen criterium, stunt bike show and a race pitting the Aspen City Council against Pitkin County commissioners.

While some of these events were part of last year’s Pro Cycling Challenge festivities in Aspen, one major change is the “race festival.” This year, all events – including booths, beer garden, food, music and more – will be near the race finish at Paepcke Park and the surrounding streets. Team buses will be parked along Hunter and Spring streets and along Hyman Avenue.

Then, after the awards ceremony and race festival wrap-up, there will be a free concert in Wagner Park.

“Last year, if you will remember, everything sort of shut down after 6 o’clock,” Lesley said. “What we’re hoping to do is keep that buzz going, keep people in town.”

Another change, because there are now two days of racing in Aspen, is continued road closures on Thursdays. But unlike Wednesday, when orange fencing will be visible all over downtown, Thursday will be a little more relaxed.

“Thursday’s going to look sort of like the Fourth of July parade. It will be much more casual, as it’s less intense at a race start,” said Lesley, explaining that racers will make two neutral laps around downtown, and the race won’t begin until they head up the pass.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com