Second stage of Pro Cycling Challenge a ‘scene to watch’

The start of the 99.2 mile stage 2 USA Pro Challenge race from Montrose to Crested Butte.

MONTROSE—With many downtown streets closed off for an hour Tuesday morning, and on the heels of eight months of city planning, the second stage of the USA Pro Challenge began in Montrose with 158 multicolored riders pouring out of Pavilion Drive and East Niagara Road, headed toward Mount Crested Butte.

For Montrose, the globally televised event that produced worldwide marketing of the area reportedly went smoothly.

For Grand Junction, it was an opportunity to watch and learn and hopefully be prepared for possibly hosting a stage of its own.

“Probably the biggest obstacle has been education of what the race is,” said Jenni Sopsic, director of marketing and public relations for the Montrose Chamber of Commerce. “Like Grand Junction, we hosted the Ride the Rockies, but not a stage race like this, so the community didn’t really know what was coming.”

What came was professional riders who, just before the 11:25 a.m. start, were introduced on a stage set on a grass pavilion, where rows of business vendors sold food and other merchandise and a big-screen television displayed race action. The riders eventually rode through the business district on a closed-off Main Street.

“People were shaking their cow bells, and the riders went over a painted street,” said Great Harvest Bread Co. manager Kelli Hart, who won a bid to sell 600 lunches to cyclists and their crews.

A large red, white and blue star was painted on a Main Street intersection.

“It was a scene to watch,” Hart said.

Sopsic said there won’t be an economic impact estimation until later this year. Although Hart said business picked up for the week prior to the race, Kyndra McMillan, manager of Big Head Barbeque on Main Street, said the event did not produce additional business.

Still, if Grand Junction is to improve on Montrose’s showing and put together an enticing proposal, it can take note of Montrose’s findings.

Blaine Hall, a patrol lieutenant for the Montrose Police Department who was in charge of coordinating public safety, said early preparation and communication are key.

That means that at least five months in advance, all appropriate sectors — law enforcement, public works, sheriff’s department, fire department — must be involved and “all in,” he said.

This is because of the dynamic nature of the event, Hall said, adding he began working 50 to 60 hours weekly in January in preparation for the challenge.

“I know it’s hard, everybody being able to attend meetings,” Hall said, “but they all have to be there and on the same page. That’s why this was such a success. Everybody worked together.”

To make communication universal throughout the four sections the Montrose Police Department broke the course into, Hall used a main command communication channel to communicate with public safety officers and volunteers.

Early in the planning stages, the Police Department performed communication exercises for the event, “which at first didn’t work out too well,” Hall said. “We initially dealt with different channels, and we scrapped that.

“That was crucial. This event is so fluid, so quick and dynamic. These cyclers are going 45 mph. If there’s an accident, everyone needs to know immediately.”

Hall said the city began issuing warnings of road closures through Local Operating Committee letters and notices in newspapers and on television. Hall said the city began posting electronic road signs that warned of road closures 10 days prior to the event.

That led Hall to something else Grand Junction can learn from Montrose’s findings: Focus more on safety and perhaps less on marketing.

“Instead of focusing too much on marketing, focus on getting quality people into the event as well as a public safety coordinator guy planning, and have the event sanitized before the thing happens,” Hall said.

Hall said all Montrose Police Department officers were required to work the event, and the Montrose County Sheriff’s Department sent 36 deputies to the event as well. There were more than 400 workers involved, including more than 250 citizen volunteers, Hall said.

Also, the Montrose Police Department issued road-closure notices to city employees whose clientèle worked primarily with appointments, such as hospital physicians.

No doubt, Grand Junction officials were taking their own notes.

Pete Baier, Mesa County public works director, said Grand Junction has the infrastructure to support a stage.

“What I’ve seen is they like to come over mountain passes, and we’ve got a number of opportunities for that,” Baier said. “It might be over the Grand Mesa. One might be heading through the Glade Park area and Little Park Road. We also have straightaways where we want more time-trial activities.”

Laura Peters, communication director for the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said the USA Pro Challenge would provide the type of publicity the city is trying to promote.

“Everything we do is trying to push atmosphere, quality of life,” Peters said, “and that falls in place with what this is.”

Peters added, “It’s not free advertising, but it’s free advertising on a global scale.”

Now the city must work out details for a proposal.

“There is a completely different aspect to a start and finish, and that’s something that all goes back to atmosphere, good and bad,” said Mistalynn Meyeraan, director of marketing and public relations at the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau. “So we’ll decide which one fits the community better, and Grand Junction is such an athletic community and especially for biking, so it makes sense we’d have so many hands wanting to help because it’s such a worldwide event.”

RELATED STORY: Crested Butte hosts finish of second stage


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