Bike racers will traverse federal lands
Professional bike racers will pedal their way through national parks and monuments in Utah in August, but there is no turnabout in National Park Service policy on such races, officials said.
The National Park Service has cited its mission in rejecting applications for professional bicycle-racing competitions on Colorado National Monument, but spokesman Rick Frost said there’s no contradiction in a similar race through the Utah venues.
The Tour of Utah will pass through Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park, but on stretches over state, not federal, roads, Frost said.
The race will include 1.5 miles in Cedar Breaks and half a mile in Bryce, Frost said.
The Tour of Utah, however, bragged that it scored a coup in gaining permission to pass through the venues, which are administered by the Park Service, as well as through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
“Featuring the signature Red Rock country of southern Utah for the first time, there is tremendous anticipation for this year’s race and the new courses,” Steve Miller, president of Miller Sports Properties, said in a statement about garnering the route. “The opportunity to bring our race to these national parks and national monuments is unprecedented for professional cycling.”
Grand Junction officials had sought a similar distinction when they pursued a bike race over Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument two years ago.
Running the race through the two venues in Utah wasn’t a Park Service decision, Frost said.
“It wasn’t entirely our decision,” Frost said, noting that the race “won’t be run on scenic drives like Rim Rock Drive” in Colorado National Monument.
Utah officials worked on their own, Frost said.
“We just dealt with race organizers and explained to them what the possibilities were,” he said.
The differences between the Tour of Utah and a race across Rim Rock Drive aren’t that stark, said Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.
“If you look at the history, the feds wouldn’t pay to put the road in,” Schwenke said, referring to Rim Rock Drive, the 23-mile road overlooking the monument’s steep canyon walls and ochre spires. “The county and the chamber built that road.”
Uses allowed on Colorado National Monument will be the subject of two public meetings this month.
The first session will be 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Fruita Community Center and the second will be noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the University Center Ballroom at Colorado Mesa University.
The Tour of Utah will begin Aug. 6 at Brian Head ski resort and go into Cedar Breaks National Monument. The next day the race will go through Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The six-day race ends in Park City, Utah.