Ride the Rockies still wants Aspen
January 19, 2016
Though Pitkin County commissioners have expressed reservations about it, officials with the Ride the Rockies still plan to try and start this year's bicycle tour in Aspen, the ride's director said.
"It's not enough to scare us off," said Chandler Smith. "It might not play out as intended, but I'd like to think Aspen and Pitkin County will be a part of the ride."
Smith said ride organizers will submit an application and continue to work closely with county officials to try and work out an amicable plan.
Last week, county community-development officials told commissioners that Ride the Rockies wanted to start the annual ride in Aspen in June the weekend before the Aspen Food & Wine Classic.
Organizers wanted to spend three days in the area and include a 50-person VIP ride along county roads Saturday, a 2,000-person ride Sunday on county roads and then have riders leave town Monday by pedaling over Independence Pass.
They proposed utilizing Maroon Creek and Castle Creek roads or a combination of McLain Flats, Lower River and Owl Creek roads for the 2,000-person ride. Such a plan would almost certainly require road closures, which commissioners didn't like.
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"What's unique this year is we've proposed a multiple-night stay," Smith said.
Based on the commissioner comments so far, Smith said there could be alternate options that won't be quite so taxing on the county. Those include staggered starting times to avoid road closures, he said.
"We want those blessings of the community before we go to the public," he said. "We're not looking for any favors."
Ride the Rockies organizers first reached out to officials in the Aspen area in November, and the ideas for this year's ride took time to make it through channels, Smith said. However, he said organizers may need to start planning the routes a year in advance to provide enough time to make arrangements.
Ride the Rockies' last appearance in the Roaring Fork Valley was in 2012, when riders stayed in Carbondale and rode through Aspen. Smith said there were no road closures at that time.
Smith also wanted to respond to Commissioner Michael Owsley's comments about event organizers viewing the Aspen area as a cash cow.
"I have difficulty with people seeing my community as a commodity they can make money on," said Owsley, who made the comments before he knew the bike event was Ride the Rockies.
The Denver Post's Community Foundation puts on Ride the Rockies and distributes grant money to community needs, Smith said. The ride also can have a $250,000 economic impact on Aspen, he said.
"We are appreciative and respectful of the processes they have in place," Smith said. "We fully intend to be part of the formal process."
Ride the Rockies is a weeklong bike tour through the Rocky Mountains. The 2,000 riders are selected by lottery