City officials are hoping to host race for a third straight year
If Aspen has not been selected to land a stage of the USA Pro Challenge for a third year in a row, then this morning is going to be awkward.
Bike race organizers will hold a press conference at The Little Nell hotel at 8:30 a.m. today to announce the host cities for the August 2013 seven-day professional cycling race.
Aspen was one of at least 19 cities that submitted bids last month to host a stage finish or start for the race, which had its inaugural run in 2011. The city is hoping to host the overall race start when the event begins on Aug. 19.
When asked if having the kick-off press conference here for this summer’s race means Aspen is getting a stage, USA Pro Challenge spokesman Ben Davis said, “I wouldn’t call you and complain if that’s what you wrote.”
Davis said the press conference will include Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Challenge, representatives of the selected host cities and “special guests.”
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, who has been the race’s biggest local booster, said he will be attending the press conference, but would not confirm that Aspen has been selected.
The press conference will be held in the Terrace Room at the Nell.
Aspen’s city government has been an enthusiastic supporter of the bike race since its creation was announced in 2010. The city hosted a stage finish in the inaugural year, capping off one of the race’s most challenging legs. Dubbed the “Queen Stage,” riders began in Gunnison and summited two 12,000-foot-high mountain passes — Cottonwood and Independence — before crossing the finish line 130 miles later on Main Street.
Thousands of fans lined the streets of Aspen and gathered on top of Independence Pass to cheer on the racers and enjoy the festival-like atmosphere.
In August of this year, Aspen was the only city to host both a stage finish — again with riders starting in Gunnison and following the same route — and a next-day start. Riders headed out back over Independence Pass and ended in Beaver Creek.
The race takes over the town when it comes through, closing most downtown streets for an entire day or more.
Local hotels give hundreds of free or discounted rooms to racers and support staff, and local tax dollars also subsidize the event; those expenses are hopefully worthwhile because of the exposure Aspen gains from hosting the race, officials have said.
The public subsidy in 2011 was around $125,000, which included a $50,000 contribution from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s lodging-tax-supported destination marketing fund. Total expenses were around $259,000, according to a city budget reconciliation.
The city and ACRA spent about $166,000 hosting the double-dose of racing this year. Total expenses were around $285,000, according to city figures.
The local organizing committee offset expenses by selling sponsorships, booths at an expo on race day, VIP tickets for a tent at the finish line, and other viewer packages. However, the city lost out on revenue from VIP tickets sold through the main USA Pro Challenge website, with those funds going to the larger USA Pro Challenge organizers.