Pro bike race is not just for ski resorts
Thousands of people turned out in Montrose Tuesday for the start of the second leg of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, watching riders as they began their climb to Crested Butte.
In fact, cycling fans — and others who just wanted to see some of the world-class athletes participating in the race — lined many parts of U.S. Highway 50 from Montrose to Gunnison, where the racers turned and headed to Crested Butte.
Today, the bicylists will race from Gunnison to Buena Vista over Monarch Pass, then back to Aspen by Independence Pass.
Tuesday’s solid turnout should demonstrate to race organizers and sponsors that pro bike racing can draw substantial numbers of fans, even when it isn’t wheeling through a major resort town or cities such as Boulder and Denver. In short, on the Western Slope, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge doesn’t have to be limited to ski resorts and mountain towns. We hope that is remembered when the Challenge race organizers consider their race stages for 2013.
The economic benefits of the race — money spent during the race and valuable promotion of this area when the race is televised around the world — would be especially welcome.
It’s no secret that a local group has been angling for a stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge to run through Grand Junction and rural Mesa County since before the 2011 inaugural race.
There are ample, physically demanding rides with spectacular scenery in this county even if our most iconic terrain, Colorado National Monument, is not part of the route.
And, as the crowds in Montrose showed, there is plenty of interest in bike racing in this part of the state. The crowds will be even larger if one stage of the race is held in Mesa County.