WESTERN SLOPE – Telluride and Montrose will be front and center in pro cycling’s hottest new international event next year. They are among eight Colorado communities, which have been selected to host stages of the 2012 Pro Cycling Challenge.
News of the host cities’ selection was announced at a press conference in Denver on Tuesday, but an anonymous source had already spilled the beans to the media late last week. While race officials will not reveal the exact route until sometime in the spring of 2012, they have confirmed the basic course as follows:
Stage 1, Aug. 20: Durango to Telluride
Stage 2, Aug. 21: Montrose to Mt. Crested Butte
Stage 3, Aug. 22: Gunnison to Aspen
Stage 4, Aug. 23: Aspen to Beaver Creek
Stage 5, Aug. 24: Breckenridge to Colorado Springs
Stage 6, Aug. 25: Golden to Boulder
Stage 7, Aug. 26: Denver (time trial)
The approximately 520-mile route will climb five mountain passes over 10,000 feet, the Denver Post reported. These are likely to include Lizard Head Pass in Stage 1, and Independence Pass between Gunnison and Aspen in Stage 3. Known as the “Queen’s Stage,” the climb over Independence Pass will probably remain a fixture of the Pro Cycling Challenge’s otherwise shifting route from year to year, race insiders say.
The addition of the time trial in Denver, meanwhile, makes the race more competitive right up to the end. In comparison, the winner of the Tour de France (the classic European sporting event to which the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is often compared) is usually predetermined by the final day of the event.
In all, 27 Colorado communities vied for a chance to host the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. That number included the 11 towns that hosted stages in 2011, during which 135 of the world’s top cycling athletes (including Olympians, World Champions and the Tour de France podium winners) raced 518 miles across Colorado.
Amidst such fierce competition, winning the right to host a stage in 2012 was a coup for Telluride, which mounted an unsuccessful bid to be a host city for last year’s inaugural event.
Speaking from the press conference in Denver this Tuesday evening where the route was “officially” announced, Telluride mayor Stu Fraser was still floating on air.
“We raised our hands as if we had glasses; we couldn’t get to the bar because it was too packed!” he said of the general air of euphoria at the press conference, which was attended by race officials, high profile professional cyclists, cycling fans and representatives from each of the host communities, in addition to the media. “So many people were saying, ‘This is really all about Telluride; Telluride is so perfect for this race.’”
Fraser and his local organizing committee (LOC) couldn’t agree more. The committee included Town of Telluride Manager Greg Clifton and his counterpart in Mountain Village Kim Montgomery, Mountain Village Town Councilor Cath Jett, Kiera Skinner and Michael Martelon from the Telluride Tourism Board, Telluride Ski and Golf Vice President of Resort Operations Elizabeth Howe, realtor Erik Fallenius, Larry Mallard and Frank Ruggieri from the lodging sector, and Mike Volk, a local banker and bike racer who co-organized a local mountain bike stage race for several years.
The late cyclist J. Michael Brown also contributed to early discussions.
In inimitable Telluride fashion, the group put together a sexy little micro website as its application, featuring video footage taken by “Glider Bob” Sanders, who flew his glider over the Valley Floor as cyclists rode the Spur (the only paved road leading into Telluride) as if it were a race, Fraser said.
The application hit its mark this second time around. And indeed, in the last week of November, Fraser received word that Telluride had won a slot as a host community. But he was bound to secrecy until the route was officially announced.
“It’s very exciting,” Fraser said. “We just felt that out of all the towns trying to get into this, there could be no better town for a stage to end up – with cyclists sprinting up the Spur and ending in front of the court house.”
Folks in Montrose, too, are “excited and thrilled” at the prospect of being on the world’s cycling stage next summer, said Jenni Sopsic, interim CEO of the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism. Sopsic headed up Montrose’s LOC, which convened just this fall.
While Telluride had experience to help power the success of its proposal this year, the key ingredient in Montrose’s LOC was simply passion – passion for cycling, and passion for Montrose.
“There’s been so much support in the community; it’s been wonderful,” Sopsic said. “We received wonderful letters of support from the City of Montrose and Montrose County. They truly see this as economic development.”
In addition to Sopsic, the committee which penned Montrose’s successful proposal included, from the City of Montrose, City Manager Bill Bell, Senior Planner Garry Baker (an avid cyclist), and GIS wiz Eric Svensen.
Local cycling enthusiasts Fred Matheny and Rob Brethouwer were also key players. Matheny is a cycling journalist and former Fitness and Training Editor for Bicycling Magazine. Brethouwer is the founder and director of the Montrose Area Bicycle Alliance.
Wells Fargo Bank employee Sean Witham rounded out the committee. “He has an overall passion for Montrose, and he’s a cyclist,” Sopsic noted.
The group had about a month to pull its proposal together; the RFP was released on Sept. 23, and the deadline was Oct. 31.
“This was not an opportunity we wanted to pass by,” Sopsic said. She is particularly excited about the international exposure Montrose will receive as a host community. “Last year the race was broadcast in 141 countries,” she said. “That’s phenomenal.”
The specific details of the route from Montrose to Crested Butte have yet to be announced. Brethouwer is keeping his fingers crossed that the beginning of Stage 2 will see cyclists heading from the start village at the Montrose Pavilion down Niagara to Townsend, then taking a “big right hand turn” onto Main Street, and through the heart of downtown Montrose on their way toward Gunnison.
Matheny, meanwhile, said there are two possible routes that the Montrose committee has pitched for cyclists to get to Crested Butte. One would follow Highway 50 to Gunnison over Cerro Summit and Blue Summit, and then north to Crested Butte.
Another would have cyclists pedaling north from Montrose to Delta, possibly on back roads out around Pea Green. From there the route would go east and north over Redlands Mesa on back roads to Hotchkiss and Crawford, out to Blue Mesa Dam and into Gunnison.
“I've heard that there's some talk of going into Crested Butte via Kebler Pass, but it's a gravel road, so unless the county would grade and mag chloride it like they do for Cottonwood Pass, that route wouldn't work,” Matheny added.
An earlier proposed version of the route under consideration for 2012, leaked to the press in November, showed Ouray, rather than Montrose, hosting the beginning of Stage 2. That configuration would have had the cyclists riding all the way from Ouray to Mt. Crested Butte on Aug. 21. xs
Officials in Ouray explained in a press release this week that the proposed stage from Ouray to Mt. Crested Butte would have been exactly 130 miles (the farthest distance allowed in any one stage, according to race rules), and that Stage 3 over Independence Pass the following day is also that long. Race officials needed to make Stage 2 shorter. Switching the starting line to Montrose shaved about 30 miles off the course.
“Although Ouray was not selected for the 2012 event, the race organizers were impressed with the level of community support and commitment and have encouraged the city to reapply for the 2013 race,” the press release stated.
According to race promoters, the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge attracted more than a million spectators from around the state, the country and the world, and the Colorado economy was the beneficiary of $83.5 million in economic impact (primarily shared among the host communities).