Organizers: Race day in Aspen went smoothly
August 26, 2011
ASPEN – Local officials say that they are pleased overall with the planning and handling of the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s stop in Aspen.
The second stage of the professional bike race Wednesday didn’t bring 20,000 visitors to Aspen as some had predicted. Local restaurants saw only a slight surge in business after the race; vendors attempting to move food, beverages and other items during an exposition at Wagner Park reported slow to modest sales, at best.
But on the flip side, the event came with relatively few hitches and glitches. Aspen put on its best face for the race and set the stage for becoming a host city should the event return next year.
“It was smooth and wonderful and people were psyched and there was a good vibe in town,” said Mitzi Rapkin, the city’s communications director and a member of the race’s local organizing committee. “People were still talking about it Thursday, and those who watched it on Independence Pass or in town were all in good spirits.”
Mayor Mick Ireland had a similar evaluation. “I was most impressed by how happy people were. That single thing stood out: people I don’t know, people who don’t even know I’m mayor, walking around and then telling me how great it was.”
Ireland said he understands some businesses suffered lower sales because of street closures. The city erected barricades on Main Street and around most of downtown to keep traffic away and to accommodate the race route. With Independence Pass closed to motorists between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., locals and visitors only had one way in and out of town.
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Rapkin said the city learned at least one lesson from the inaugural event. After the race, the barricades were removed too quickly in town and on the pass, creating a mad rush of motorists leaving the city. A staggered approach to barricade removal would have resulted in a more orderly exit.
“The only issue from our end was we probably need a better plan for the end of the day when traffic is let out,” she said. “Everyone wanted to leave at once, and it was difficult for police to get everyone out.”
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said that aside from the logistics of getting the motorists and cyclists down from the narrow road atop the pass, everything went well.
“We had no complaints from anyone up there,” he said of those who camped or tailgated along the pass before the race. “There was no criminal activity, no alcohol contact. Everyone was just having a good time.”
Most people played by the special parking rules in place on race day and the night before. But some didn’t and ended up paying for their mistakes.
Debbi Kirkwood, the city’s parking programs manager, said 13 vehicles were towed from the downtown core Tuesday. On race day, 14 vehicles were towed. Parking officers started early Wednesday – at 5 a.m.
“We thought we’d see more [towings],” she said. The vehicles weren’t ticketed, but had to pay a $135 tow fee.
Ireland said the organizing committee plans to meet Aug. 31 to assess the things that did or didn’t go well. At a meeting in the near future, the City Council will be “debriefed” on race day and its impact on the community, Rapkin said.
“This was an investment strategy, which means you don’t have payoff on the same day,” Ireland said. “In terms of exposure, I think the impact is going to be huge.”
Ireland pointed out that because so many people watched the race on the pass, the city had very few traffic problems. “We didn’t know what the proportion of people watching on the pass and in town would be,” he said.
With a better understanding of what worked and what didn’t, Aspen will be poised to host the event next year more efficiently, he said.