Stage in Pro Cycling Challenge the perfect way to show off our area’s great scenery

Hardly a day goes by without someone in the community asking me about the status of bringing a stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge to Grand Junction.

The deadline to submit bids is Monday. The Grand Junction LOC has been working on our bid for more than a year.

Our bid was mailed last week to Medalist Sports for consideration.

Our initial thought was that we would resurrect one of the most famous races in the world of cycling: The Tour of the Moon over Colorado National Monument.

Colorado National Monument hosts more than 16,000 cyclists a year who pedal through the magnificent scenery and smooth roads. We thought that this would be a natural place to host a race and that the National Park Service would view us as partners in highlighting one of the best venues for cycling on the planet.

However, the National Park Service did not look favorably upon our request and that idea was shot down.

Many people in the community have approached me to commiserate about this decision. They have also had the impression that without the monument, Grand Junction would not be able to host a stage.

Although the monument is clearly a top choice, the NPS decision did not deter us from submitting a bid. We have several great routes, and I have ridden and written about a few of them.

When most people think of Colorado, they think of the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. But those of us who live, work and play in Grand Junction know that is just part of the story.

The high desert and canyon walls of Mesa County help to make the Grand Valley unique to the state.

We are the most populous city in western Colorado and the epicenter for agriculture, transportation, business, medicine and education between Salt Lake City and Denver.

We boast spectacular canyon walls, vineyards and high mountains that can serve as a beautiful canvas for the television cameras.

However, some in the community question these efforts. They ask why would we spend so much time, effort and capital to bring a bike race to Grand Junction when we have one of the worst economies in the country. These are valid concerns.

This is why I believe this event is good for the Grand Valley:

Cycling has become a global event. The 2011 edition was viewed by 25 million people in 161 countries, and more than 1 million people lined the roads of Colorado. We can expect 25,000 or more people for a stage here and perhaps twice that.

Our hotels, restaurants and wineries can expect a significant increase in business. There will be excitement in the area as we host some of the best endurance athletes in the world.

But the real value in hosting a stage does not lie in the short-term boost to our tourist industry. It lies in the potential long-term benefits this type of exposure brings the valley.

It was estimated that the average income for live viewers of the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge was more than $110,000. Cycling is also reported to be one of the top activities for doctors.

In today’s competitive and mobile society, many people and jobs can be located remotely. Some people may look at our climate, infrastructure and abundant activities and decide to learn more about the area.

When the Grand Junction Economic Partnership is recruiting new businesses to the region, the exposure from this event might make the job of explaining who, what and where we are a tad easier. As the organization looks to industries and firms to relocate here, the outdoor industry is one potential target.

We already boast several thriving outdoor-oriented companies in the region, but more high-paying jobs would certainly not hurt.

When the medical industry is recruiting doctors, the exposure from the race just might help convince a doctor to practice medicine in the valley.

And of course, the potential tourism benefits are enormous. Places like Moab, Durango, St. George and Sedona are recognized around the world as unique destinations.

We can also become such a destination. When a cycling fan from Frankfurt, London, Sydney, Rome, New York or anywhere around the world sees this race and Mesa County, they will see a place worth visiting.

What we have in the Grand Valley is unique. We have wineries, rivers, deserts, mountains and high plains. This race provides a perfect showcase for the valley.

It is by no means certain that we will be awarded a stage for 2012 but I am proud to be associated with the many dedicated people who love this community and who have worked hard to try and bring the USA Pro Cycling Challenge to the valley.

We recognize hosting a stage of the race just might make everyone’s lives a little better.

Good riding!

Email Scott Mercier at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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