Pro Cycle Riders Fly Through, As Did the Crowds
by Kati O'Hare
Aug 23, 2012 | 2762 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HEADING TO CRESTED BUTTE - Pro Challenge riders switch gears from a neutral lap through Montrose to race mode, after the Stage 2 start Tuesday morning. (Photo by Gus Jarvis
HEADING TO CRESTED BUTTE - Pro Challenge riders switch gears from a neutral lap through Montrose to race mode, after the Stage 2 start Tuesday morning. (Photo by Gus Jarvis

MONTROSE – The communities of Telluride and Montrose have been planning for the USA Pro Cycle Challenge for almost a year. The race is only in its second year; no one was quite sure how many people it would bring to these communities, nor how much it might boost local economies.

Local restaurants, hotels and retail shops planned for the worst, scheduling extra staff and extending hours, but hoped for the best.

What they got was mixed results.

"I think we could have handled three times the amount of people," said Michael Martelon, chairman of the organizing committee for the Stage 1 finish in Telluride. "The bottom line is that we spent a lot of time and effort to prepare for what would be … 8,000 to 15,000 people, and I just don't think we saw that here."

Martelon expects occupancy and restaurant sales to be up compared to a normal Monday in August because of the race, though he won't know that for sure for a few more months. But there is more to the efforts than just the short-term impact, he said.

"Yes, there is this thing coming to town, and we hope it's economically viable and brings a boost to the local economy, but don't discount the local marketing that it provided. You can't discount being on-air in close to 200 countries."

The race was aired around the United States, with extended television coverage by NBC and NBC Sports Network. People around the world could watch it live, via, or via apps on their handheld devices, with event announcers describing the areas the riders raced through and what they had to offer, from national parks to local restaurants. Photos of the race were posted on Facebook, and event coverage was Tweeted.

"As far as the city is concerned, the event's success lies in the amount of national and international attention that it draws to the Montrose community," Montrose City spokesman David Spear said. "Tourism is an important segment of our local economy, and we believe that this event will generate long-term interest in Montrose as a tourist destination."

Although local Montrose business owners agreed with that long-term concept, it didn't much help their daily revenues.

Don Wagner, owner of Simmer on Main Street, said his restaurant did about half the business that it usually does on a Monday night, and Tuesday, the day of the Stage 2 start in Montrose, wasn't much better.

Many spectators chose to stay in Telluride and head to Montrose the morning of the Stage 2 race, leaving Montrose restaurants and hotels quiet on Monday night. Even The Wailers concert held Monday night at The Bridges in Montrose had a smaller-than expected turnout, according to local law enforcement.

"Right now, I can tell you that I have one person [who] has booked my motel for the bike race," said Jeff Anderson on Monday afternoon. Anderson owns Country Lodge, located along the race route on East Main Street in Montrose. "I have mixed feelings about it,” Anderson said. “If this is something that can happen on a yearly basis, eventually the rest of the world will understand names like Montrose, so I see that as a long-term objective. That's accomplishable."

The Hampton Inn was “fairly full,” mostly due to The Wailers staying there, and the Holiday Inn Express was chosen to host the race's start crew, which took up 70 rooms. But the owners of other accommodations along the Montrose route, such as the Best Western and Western Motel, said they saw no increase in business.

Brown's Shoe Fit owner said he saw a decrease in traffic to his Montrose Main Street store Tuesday because of the barricades downtown, but added he was willing to sacrifice that for the exposure that the race gave Montrose.

One criticism of the event in Montrose was the fact that the starting village was at the Pavilion, which is located away from any business district.

"They put it at the Pavilion where there is no access to generate any other revenues. It was not planned well," Wagner said. "It would have been a great thing to do downtown. … But, do I want the event back, absolutely."

Montrose's race event organizer, Jenni Sopsic, who is also director of the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism, said the Pavilion was a logical place for the start village because of the amount of space inside it,  and the parking space it afforded race and event crews. She said the race route was planned from there, to Townsend Avenue and then downtown, in an effort to showcase what the city has to offer.

A lot of money — $60,000 — for promoting and marketing the event came from the Pavilion's budget. The city justified that financial commitment because of the exposure it would give the city's event facility.

"If you look at other communities, a lot [of the starts and finishes] were hosted in their downtowns because that's what makes them unique," Downtown Development Director Scott Shine said. "That could be the same for Montrose.” If the race is held here again, Shine said, “Maybe we could coordinate a downtown start or finish."

By Tuesday afternoon, the buzz around the Montrose community was whether all the money spent, which included  $10,000 contributed by Montrose County, plus overtime for almost the entire Montrose Police Department, was worth it.

In the next few months, local race organizers will be assessing that in greater detail, to determine if the community wants to apply for a spot in next year's race, Sopsic said.

Grand Junction residents Sheila and John Howard said they had been asked several times by residents if they were spending money in Montrose during their day visit. They did eat lunch at a local restaurant and were headed downtown for a beer when they stopped for an interview with The Watch.

And local residents who came out to see the race said they were glad it came through town, but they, too, were realistic about its actual economic impact on their city.

"I think it had some impact, but not as much as in other communities," said Sue Montgomery, who was taking a break at her job as executive director of the Dolphin House to watch the riders fly by.

Montgomery lives south of Montrose; on her way to work Tuesday morning, she said, she counted 11 different state license plates on vehicles with decals supporting the race, including plates from Alaska, California, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

"All those people are learning that Montrose exists," she said. "It lets the world know we are here, and what we do have to offer."

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