Crested Butte in high gear for bike race

Spectators cheer near the finish line Tuesday during the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

CRESTED BUTTE — Everywhere Shaun Matusewicz looked Tuesday, he saw the work put into hosting the USA Pro Cycling Challenge pay off.

It showed with thousands of people in town checking into hotel rooms, visiting restaurants and purchasing goods from nonprofit organizations, looking to gain something from a major international event.

“This is a great day to see this come to fruition,” Matusewicz said. “We started working on this eight months ago. We weren’t quite sure what would come of it, but we knew we wanted to put a really strong bid.

“Down on Main Street, the local high school girls were doing fundraisers. It’s impacted the economy on a small level and also on a large level. Some of these hotels are at 99 percent occupancy. It’s 100 percent worth it.”

Matusewicz served on a local organization committee that brought the race stage to Crested Butte.

Nearby Mount Crested Butte hosted the finish of Stage 1 of the seven-day challenge. Levi Leipheimer, originally from Butte, Mont., won the stage and took over the overall lead.

John Pugliese and Jason Federico of Grand Junction were able to get away from work Tuesday and watch.

“I got into cycling a few years ago, watching Lance Armstrong do all the tours,” Pugliese said. “Now that we’ve got a race in our backyard, I’ve got to go out and support it. We’re up here spending money and waiting for the finish.”

Federico wasn’t going to miss it.

“If you have to skip out to see the world’s best and they are in your backyard, you have to come up,” Federico said. “That’s the way it works out.”

Crested Butte Resort and the towns of Crested Butte and Mount Crested Butte communicated with each other from the start to assure it would host a stage.

“When we found out about this, we jumped on it,” Crested Butte Resort Conference Service Manager Seth Tucker said. “The biggest thing was getting the infrastructure together, being we’re at the end of the road (Colorado Highway 135).

“Once we got it, there was a party. Then it was like, ‘Holy crap, we’ve got to put this together.’ “

A local organization committee was formed and aimed to raise $140,000 for the event. Tucker said it took longer to reach those goals being a smaller community, but the resort helped by chipping in 700 hotel rooms for the cyclists, race workers and television crew.

The hardest part was planning for the number of spectators and accommodating them.

Crested Butte advertised in Grand Junction, Montrose and Durango to entice people to come watch the event and in turn bring money into the community, Tucker said.

“You start small,” Tucker said. “Many of the donations are $10,000, $5,000 from local shops and restaurants. It’s amazing to see how many were going to be here. Start small and push from there.”

The town of Gunnison has received a lot of positive feedback from its residents, once they realized the magnitude of the event, City Manager Ken Coleman said.

“If we break even, fine,” Coleman said. “The real benefit is to our local businesses. We want to create successful opportunities for them and create a vital, commercial atmosphere. That’s our job.”

The city of Gunnison rented a jumbo viewing screen to show the race Tuesday and had one street blocked off for vendors.

The city purchased some bells and hats to sell but underestimated the demand for them, selling out of the items before the cyclists came through town.

Some of the vendors were nonprofit organizations looking to raise money for their specific foundation.

“If we have 1,000 visitors come to our community, that’s wonderful,” Coleman said. “It’s amazing when you consider the number of viewers that look at Versus, NBC and read the papers. You can’t buy this kind of advertising it would cost to put up. If you tried to get a minute spot on Versus, you’d probably be spending more than the 40 grand.”

Coleman believes Grand Junction could benefit from hosting a stage next year.

“This brings huge spotlight to Colorado,” he said. “We all gain from that. ... We hope to see Grand Junction in the mix in the future. I think there is a good tie between there and here to maybe have some relationship in the routing.”

Pugliese and Federico would love to see the race come to Grand Junction next year.

“It would be amazing. First off, to see them go off the monument would be epic, like in the Coors Classic days,” Federico said. “To have it in Junction and support our local economy is very much needed. It would probably be threefold (of Crested Butte). There’s bigger population, and we have an excellent dining community.”


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