Pro bike race needs Western Slope support

The world of bicycle racing will be dominated by news from the Olympics for the next couple weeks. But, in just a little over three weeks, many of the world’s top bicycle racers — including some still catching their breath from the Olympics — will be in Colorodo for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

The race needs Western Slope support in the form of fans who turn out to view the first stages of the race in western Colorado. That support is critical for ensuring that some stages of the race are held in this part of the state in the future, including — we hope — in Mesa County.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge begins Aug. 20 with the first stage, from Durango to Telluride. That is followed Aug. 21 by a leg from Montrose to Crested Butte. Aug. 22 will see Stage 3, from Gunnison to Aspen, followed Aug. 23 by an Aspen-to-Beaver Creek leg.

Stage 5 is Aug. 24, when the race crosses the Continental Divide with a ride from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs. On Aug. 25, the racers ride from Golden to Boulder, and the race concludes Aug. 26 in Denver.

Clearly, there are plenty of opportunities for racing fans to show their support as spectators without traveling to the Front Range. And there are reciprocal benefits for doing so.

For one, the publicity associated with the race brings worldwide recognition to the region and the spectacular scenery through which the racers pedal.

Additionally, solid support can help convince race organizers to continue to hold a world-class athletic event with international competitors in Colorado and keep important stages on this side of the Continental Divide.

Last year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge — the first major road biking race in Colorado in decades — was hugely successful. Nearly 1 million spectators lined the race route near Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, Steamboat Springs and on the Front Range, according to the race’s website.

Readers may recall that a local group made a bid to have a stage of the 2011 race run in Mesa County, including two traverses of Colorado National Monument. That effort fell through, perhaps in part because of the refusal of National Park Service officials to allow the professional race to cross the monument.

However, the local organization is bidding for a stage in the 2013 race — one we hope will incorporate the monument, our most iconic ride. Much will depend on how much spectator interest there is this year in places far from the big-name resorts — in communities such as Durango and Montrose.

So, if you have an interest in bicycling or just great sport, and hope to see the race even closer to home in the future, make a point to watch at one of the western Colorado locations.


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