Editorial: Pro Challenge not perfect, but it’s a good fit | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: Pro Challenge not perfect, but it’s a good fit

For all of the opinions swirling around about the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race’s impact on local traffic and business, we must join — once again — the chorus of locals and fans in support of the event.

Is the race perfect? Of course not. Is it a boon for retailers? Not even close. Is it an inconvenience for many people? Absolutely.

Those are hardly the ingredients for a ringing endorsement of the race, and we can’t blame some business owners and inconvenienced commuters and travelers for being fed up with the event. But when it’s all said and done, we’re confident that it’s worth the one- to two-day sacrifice if you take the big picture into account.

The race kicked off from Aspen on Aug. 18 — a 61-mile criterium that included Snowmass Village and McLain Flats as part of the course. But when roads were re-opened that day after the opening stage was completed, a massive traffic gridlock ensued. This was in large part because the race started 30 minutes later than its originally scheduled time, due to a delay by NBC Sports, which televised the event.

“That message (about the television delay) apparently didn’t get out to (the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority) and the public well enough,” City Manager Steve Barwick said at a City Council work session on Tuesday. “That made it all coincide right at rush hour. … We’re learning our lessons.”

We certainly hope so. Our local Pitkin Alert system, available free of charge to subscribers, lets residents know via text or email when there are traffic delays, full parking lots or a bike auction conducted by the Aspen Police Department, among other items of potential public concern.

But nobody learned of this traffic mess on Aug. 18. We expect our paid leaders to do a better job of getting the word out. And we also should hold them accountable for not letting this happen again.

This should hardly, however, be a deal-breaker for bringing the USA Pro Challenge back to Aspen. Race organizers have publicly expressed that Aspen is an ideal venue for this budding event, and the town gets absorbed in a rarified energy that’s become a tradition the past four Augusts. And it goes without saying that the exposure Aspen gets from the race is immense.

The USA Pro Challenge belongs in Aspen. By working out a kink here and there, it can be even better.