Residents receptive to Pro Challenge circuit race

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Two potential routes to take USA Pro Challenge riders on a loop between Aspen and Snowmass Village – one involving use of Highway 82 and one that employs McLain Flats Road instead – will get a look from Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday.

The city of Aspen and Pro Challenge organizer Medalist Sports are preparing to submit a special-event application to the county for two days of pro cycling action in August, including the circuit race that has been proposed to kick off this year’s third running of the USA Pro Challenge, a multistage race that crisscrosses Colorado.

Last month, commissioners raised concerns about the potentially significant interruptions that could result from shutting down multiple county roads and a state highway during the Aug. 19 circuit race.

Since then, city representatives have met with a host of homeowners’ associations, the Woody Creek Caucus and affected entities such as the local airport and hospital to collect their feedback on the proposal and find out what steps are necessary to allay their concerns.

Commissioners will be briefed on the outcome of those discussions and get an update on the route options that have been analyzed. A Medalist Sports representative is expected to attend.

The two route options that are detailed in material distributed to commissioners include a 21.5-mile loop that starts in downtown Aspen, heads out Main Street to Maroon Creek Road, crosses the Tiehack pedestrian bridge and then follows Tiehack Road out to the highway. After a short stretch on Highway 82, riders would head up Owl Creek Road to Snowmass Village, ride back down to the highway on Brush Creek Road and then head downvalley on the highway to Smith Hill Way, above Woody Creek.

From there, riders would connect with McLain Flats Road and Cemetery Lane for the ride back into Aspen, looping through the West End and back onto Main Street.

A second option is a 27-mile loop that follows an identical route from Aspen to Snowmass. On the way down Brush Creek Road, however, riders would climb into Brush Creek Village and then down to Highway 82 and return to Aspen via the highway.

When the envisioned circuit race first was announced, a Pro Challenge executive predicted a six-lap race of 20 or 21 miles per lap.

Initial input from affected neighborhoods indicates general support for the race, according to a summary of those discussions, provided to commissioners.

The Brush Creek Metro Board, for example, has authorized use of Medicine Bow and Juniper Hill roads, both of which are private, if the race comes through Brush Creek Village, the subdivision in the hills above the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82.

Many homeowners’ associations asked that their neighborhood roads to be closed off to spectator parking, and at least one of them – Starwood – inquired about a special viewing area for its residents. There were also questions about bus service, the availability of emergency services and the increased potential for wildfire with spectators lining the roads. People also asked about the duration of road closures as the cyclists move through.

Many homeowners’ associations made suggestions about how to get the word out about the impact of the race to affected residents as the race date nears.

Representatives of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport expressed the need to communicate with travelers who are either arriving or leaving Aspen on race day. The necessity for continuous access to Aspen Valley Hospital also was stressed, as was the desire to work with doctors and patients so they can make scheduling adjustments, if possible. Medical emergencies will have priority over the race, according to organizers.

Answers to many questions won’t be available until the details of the circuit race are finalized, but a couple of Woody Creek Caucus members suggested that the community can endure a few hours of inconvenience in exchange for the chance to watch a once-in-a-lifetime event, according to the memorandum forwarded to county commissioners by Nancy Lesley, city director of special events.

“The comments from the meetings indicate an overall approval for the bike race,” Lesley wrote. “Everyone understood the very temporary nature of the race and that the adverse impacts to personal travel and access during the race can be mitigated through aggressive information dissemination.”

The circuit race will be Stage 1 of this year’s USA Pro Challenge. Stage 2, on Aug. 20, will begin in downtown Aspen and take riders over Independence Pass en route to Breckenridge.

Tuesday’s discussion of the Pro Challenge is scheduled before county commissioners starting at 1 p.m. in their Plaza One meeting room.


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