Two high-mountain bicycle tours are planning to come through Aspen this June and both will begin and end in Glenwood Springs.
The 380-mile Denver Post Ride the Rockies tour will start in Glenwood Springs on June 14 and head over McClure Pass on Highway 133 to Hotchkiss. Then it is off to Gunnison, Salida, Leadville and over Independence Pass to Aspen on June 18. The tour ends in Glenwood on June 19.
Two days later on June 21, the 2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado will leave Glenwood Springs and also head to Hotchkiss. Then that tour — which features longer, more grueling rides than Ride the Rockies and includes over 500 miles in the saddle — goes to Grand Junction, Montrose, Crested Butte, and Buena Vista before coming through Aspen on June 27 en route to Glenwood Springs.
The Ride the Rockies riders will stay in Aspen on June 18, while the Bicycle Tour of Colorado riders are expected to just pass through town. But both events begin and end in Glenwood Springs.
Kate Collins, vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce, said it is a “big deal” for the community to host both bike tours, especially as the annual Strawberry Days Festival will be held between the two cycling events.
“A majority of the riders camp,” Collins said. “But with 2,000 riders, we do know that they are going be dining out and taking in related entertainment in town.”
And since both tours finish in Glenwood, the therapeutic waters of the Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood should be a popular attraction.
According to the Ride the Rockies Web site, “cyclists in 2008 spent an average of $270,000 in a 24-hour period in each town.”
“An even bigger benefit could be the word-of-mouth business, or their return visits, which can be invaluable,” Collins said.
The Ride the Rockies tour came through the Roaring Fork Valley in 2007 on a route that took them from Craig to Rifle to Glenwood to Aspen to Leadville and beyond.
The cyclists rode up a section of the Rio Grande Trail from Carbondale to Woody Creek and the bike path drew high praise from riders, especially after they battled oil and gas trucks on the busy two-lane road between Craig and Rifle.
Now the Rio Grande bike path has been completed between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs and presumably the riders will coast down the Rio Grande on the final leg of their loop, although no special-use permit applications appear to be on file with Pitkin County yet.
In 2007, the Ride the Rockies participants camped for the night at Iselin Field next to the Aspen Recreation Center. A big wind gust blew over a 40-foot by 60-foot catering tent and seven people on the tours were treated for minor injuries at Aspen Valley Hospital.
It will be the first time that Ride the Rockies has included McClure Pass and the second time in two years that the riders will be asked to labor up Independence Pass, which tops out at 12,095 feet.
“The riders absolutely loved the reception here and the bike trail experience along the river,” wrote Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, who has participated in Ride the Rockies 14 times, in an e-mail. “It was great for Aspen and the riders. Bicycling in general (not RTR) is low impact tourism and I am certain that some riders, having seen the trail and been exposed to the very positive Aspen reception, have come back or will come back for visits.”
The Ride the Rockies event uses a lottery system to sort out the typical 4,000 applicants from the 2,000 spaces on the tour.
“If I am accepted, I plan to make the ride and, best of all, to take RFTA to the start and back home at the end,” Ireland said.
The Bicycle Tour of Colorado has come through Aspen twice since 1995. This year, riders will be coming to town during a 107-mile-long ride from Buena Vista to Glenwood Springs.
The “BTC” also includes a 98-mile ride from Hotchkiss to Grand Junction up and over the Grand Mesa, which they call “the largest flat top mountain in the world,” as well as an optional ride across the Colorado National Monument.