Aspen Times Editorial: Pro Challenge, Aspen fit to be tied
It’s evident that the USA Pro Challenge cycling race has fans on both sides of the aisle, based on the opinions espoused on these very pages.
The biggest complaint about the bike race centers around the inconvenience it imposed — chiefly on commuters because of detours and road closures and on retailers because of the lack of foot traffic.
These are valid complaints and shouldn’t be dismissed simply by labeling them more criticism and bellyaching from Aspen’s cantankerous lot. Aspen’s business community and residents deserve to be heard about this, and they’ll get their chance in a work session with the City Council at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Even so, if the Pro Challenge were in Aspen for three, four or five days, these complaints would stand a greater chance of resonating with us. But it was just here for a day and a half this year, for a day and a half last year and one day in 2011, its inaugural year.
So, over three years, the bike race has taken Aspen hostage for a combined four days.
Aspen, in the summers especially, is a resort town driven by events. Food & Wine Classic, the two Jazz Aspen-Snowmass music festivals, the Aspen Music Festival, Aspen Ideas Festival, the list goes on. We’ve been the proud — and sometimes tolerant — hosts of the Winter X Games, as well. Granted, none of these events shut down the town like the Pro Challenge, but again, we’re talking about a spectacle that has occupied Aspen, as we said earlier, for four days over the past three years.
Has the Pro Challenge been an example of perfection in Aspen? No, and the same can be said for the other big events, from the lengthy wait for the public buses after the Labor Day Festival concerts end (and sometimes the beer lines during the shows), to the few lowbrow crimes associated with the X Games, to the exclusivity on display at Food & Wine.
We can find fault with all of these events, if we really try.
But think about the upside of the Pro Challenge, and we’re not talking just about the positive exposure it generates. It also brings a festive atmosphere to Aspen streets during one of the final weeks of the high summer season, not to mention some of the best endurance athletes (drug-free, we dearly hope) in the world. Aspen’s energy level is on par, or arguably higher, with the Fourth of July. We see that as a good thing.
For sure, there are areas of the Pro Challenge where some compromise and improvements can be made. The same can be said for any big-time events in their infancy. We encourage attendees of Tuesday’s work session to leave nothing off the table, and we ask City Council members to keep their ears open.
But whatever transpires, there’s no reason why Aspen shouldn’t be a mainstay on the USA Pro Challenge map. We would hate to see such an event slip away because it posed a day’s worth of hassles that could be mended by joining in on the fun.