Officials discussing bid for 2014 bike race

by Carolyn Sackariason, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

City of Aspen elected officials met behind closed doors earlier this week to begin preparing for a bid to be a host city in next year’s USA Pro Challenge cycling race.

Aspen City Council met in executive session on Monday under the legal description “contract negotiations,” although no proposal or bid package was formed. And despite that Aspen and Snowmass are just coming off hosting the overall start of the seven-stage Colorado bike race, officials already are discussing next year.

“We are trying to run a parallel path,” said Nancy Lesley, the city’s special events director who has played an integral role in Aspen hosting various stages of the race over the past three years.

“We are exploring all of our options,” Lesley said. “We are wrapping up and looking ahead, and we need to know where our partners stand so we have to start this conversation right now.”

Conversations among officials in Pitkin County, Snowmass and Aspen about last month’s race are ongoing while at the same time, they are discussing their desire to once again be picked for the overall start.

“It would be nice and that’s up to the pro challenge,” Lesley said.

A request for proposals to be a host for the 2014 race will likely be opened to cities throughout the state next month; Aspen and Snowmass submitted their bid last year shortly before the Nov. 16 deadline. The announcement was made Dec. 20 that Aspen had won the overall start and a next-day stage 2 departure over Independence Pass.

City officials are hoping that they will once again be selected to host the overall start and if possible, get a multi-year commitment from race organizers.

“We are not turning away from it,” said Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron. “It’s not something I would disregard.”

Lesley said Aspen officials always have wanted a multi-year commitment from pro challenge organizers to be a host city, especially for the overall start.

It would be even better if that commitment could come earlier on the calendar. Skadron and others want to make sure they are ahead of the game for next year to work out any kinks, logistical problems and community concerns well in advance.

“It’s appropriate to do due diligence for the community,” Skadron said. “But we are desirous of early preparation.”

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association is currently surveying local businesses about the impacts they felt during the two-day event, and polling them on their desire to have the race again. The results will be released when all the data has been compiled.

Aspen City Council late last month held a public meeting to hear input from community members on the race, and the people in the standing-room-only crowd in council chambers overwhelmingly said they supported it. A few said road closures were difficult to deal with and impacted their business and employees but overall, they felt the exposure to the resort community was worth it.

Local race organizers and elected officials would prefer an accelerated bid process, if possible, so that they can begin planning earlier and drum up sponsorship dollars to offset the public subsidy that goes into hosting the race.

Hosting a stage start or finish of the professional cycling race requires investment from the host communities. Included on the list of things host communities provide are subsidized or free lodging, as well as food for race participants; security; entertainment and porta-potties for spectators on race day; and there also are marketing and public relations costs incurred by the individual communities.

The city of Aspen’s cash infusion was $215,000 toward this year’s race and Snowmass contributed over $100,000, which doesn’t include in-kind services from government staff and other services like public safety. Pitkin County contributed tens of thousands of dollars in-kind, by offering public safety services and waiving permit fees.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said while vetting still needs to be done about last month’s race logistics and impacts, the government is willing to be a participant again next year.

“There’s still a lot of discussions to have, but quite frankly this past year went pretty smoothly,” he said, adding that having discussions about planning for next year is desirable. “Overall, there is support.”

City officials said they’ve heard support from Snowmass to be included in next year’s race; Snowmass Village Mayor Bill Boineau couldn’t be reached for comment.