Marolt: Aspen locks down for all the right reasons

Professional bicycle racing is an incredibly exciting event except for the professional bicycle racing. Hmmm — that might be a little ambiguous. Let me say it another way: Live professional bicycle racing is even more boring to watch than live professional ski racing. I mention this because I am a big fan of the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race that has made Aspen and Snowmass Village its center stage, and I dig big-time ski racing here, too.

Lance Armstrong is famous for lying and coming within a urine tester’s whisker of wining seven Le Tour titles, but when he said, “It’s not about the bike,” he was right on. The bikes were at the forefront of fans’ thoughts for a grand total of about 45 seconds out of the entire two days of racing that took place on our local streets and roads — “Hey, look, the peloton is coming!” Whooosh! Repeat every 40 minutes over two hours during one afternoon and then three quick times in a row through town at a snail’s pace the next morning before it leaves for another year, and that pretty much sums up the racing part of a professional bicycle race.

Thank goodness for hot dogs and Hibachi grills! Hooray for great summer weather! Kudos for SPF 6 tanning oil! Bravo for the bands! Points for face paint. Thanks to the crazies who dress up and get down to boom boxes blaring by the sides of the road! Can we hear a cheer for ice-cold beer? And don’t forget about the free caffeinated Jelly Bellies and other swag available at a sponsorship tent near you!

When was the last time we thought a long line of cars on Highway 82 was cool or exciting? It was both during the event! You have to admit that lots of cars decked out with snazzy logos, full of important people and squealing their tires around sharp corners are fun under the right circumstances. Who has ever been so glad to see a dozen State Patrol cars with lights flashing and sirens howling speeding up the street toward them? Even the four-hour hold on mobility and productivity added to the excitement. All the roads in and out of town were blocked off to everyone for the better part of a day, and there wasn’t even a bomb threat or an escaped convict on the loose? A full-on lockdown for all the right reasons. Awesome!

As for the economic impacts on Aspen, I am convinced that an event like this is long-term good, but I believe those who say it was short-term tough because their shops either lost business the day of the race or employees lost wages because their bosses closed up shop. I think the solution is to think of this thing kind of like a day-and-a-half-long offseason, only with great weather and something to do during it. It happens every year at the same time, so you have to get ready for it!

I know this silly bicycle race occurs in our town during one of the busiest weeks of the summer season. But that just might be the biggest reason it is such a gas! What better than a reward like this for working like dogs every day from the time Food & Wine lets the fat cats out of the bag in our quiet town? The hustle and bustle of summertime in Aspen eventually wears all of us out no matter how thickly it pads the bank account.

One could say that if you showed up to work in an empty store on race day, you just didn’t hear opportunity knocking the night before. That would have given you plenty of time to thaw some brats and scout the course for a good place to lower a tailgate.

And that brings me back to skiing. If event organizers and the creative people of this town who put the USA Pro Challenge together can make an exciting extravaganza of this scale from something as boring as bicycle racing, why can’t we do the same thing with a World Cup ski race? Those who believe that the Winter X Games success here is an ESPN-fueled fluke need to take another gulp of coffee, pick out the eye crust and see that the USA Pro Challenge has just proven that theory wrong. If a place like Aspen can create hugely successful events from yawners like bicycling and snowboarding, surely we can do it with skiing. Right? Wait. What was that? I think I just heard opportunity knocking, again.

Roger Marolt wonders if anyone would notice if there were no bikers in the bike race. Contact him at


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