National monument officials deny proposal for world-class bike race

A proposal for a permit for a world-class bike race with three laps around Colorado National Monument was denied this week by monument officials.

Local organizers say the monument’s precipitous cliffs and winding road would be the highlight of the Quiznos Pro Challenge in Colorado, a multistage professional bike race that will debut in late August.

They suggest the bike race could inject an infusion of dollars into the local economy and attract scores of future visitors lured by coverage of the event to be beamed on televisions around the globe.

Some local business leaders are attempting to secure a route in the Grand Valley for the 2012 race.

Colorado National Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said the permit was denied because impacts of the large-scale race would negatively affect the conserved area.

“We would be happy to look at a new proposal,” she said Friday.

The proposal for 144 cyclists with 16 to 18 teams, 16 feed zones, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for media coverage, and closing Rim Rock Drive for six hours during the peak of tourist season, along with hordes of fans lining the road, would cause too much damage,  Anzelmo said.

The monument, like other protected places in the National Park Service, issues permits for special events on a case-by-case basis. Events must not cause damage to the surrounding areas, and they must not unreasonably offset the area’s tranquility, among other values.

Anzelmo offered race organizers the option of conducting one ceremonial lap for racers, an opportunity to showcase the monument’s beauty with media coverage, but the race would have to take place elsewhere.

A member of the local organizing committee, John Hopkins, said the denial was disappointing, but the concerns are legitimate.

“Joan offered a counterproposal, and we’ll digest that,” he said. “From my perspective, this is the beginning of the process.”

Hopkins said the local organizing committee will continue to work through Anzelmo, and not contact officials higher up in the National Park Service, to determine if a pared-down proposal might gain approval.

Hopkins said other areas in the Grand Valley are being considered as possible routes. Stage races are designed to be 100 to 125 miles.

In the 1980s, the monument played host to the Tour of the Moon stage of the Coors International Bike Classic.

Organizers pine for the success of that race, which trained the spotlight on the red-rock landscapes, featuring Grand Junction as an attractive biking destination,

“Because of the geography, I think it could be a signature event,” Hopkins said. “We really do want to pursue the monument. It really attracted people at that time.”

Times have changed in 30 years, Anzelmo said, and the Grand Valley has increased in density. A similar proposal for a stage race in Yosemite National Park for the Tour of California was denied by park officials there.

Several bike rides are allowed on the monument, including the Tour of the Valley, the 2010 Ride the Rockies and a Mesa State College collegiate race, not to mention a steady stream of cyclists who traverse the road in warmer months. Each November, marathon runners stride across Rim Rock Drive. Weddings and reunions also are allowed, and a total of 80 special-use permits were issued in 2010.

“We have more yes’es than no’s,” Anzelmo said.

The difference, Anzelmo said, is that events allowed are for nonprofit causes. National Park Service policy states that events in park boundaries cannot be conducted solely for the “material or financial benefit of a for-profit entity,” and awards or money for events must be of nominal value.

Winning cyclists of the Quiznos race would receive cash prizes.

“The same laws and policies that protect Yellowstone protect Colorado National Monument,” she said. “I would not be doing my job if I allowed every use that people ask of us. If we do that, then we might as well take the signs down and leave.”


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