2,000 cyclists, 6 days, 442 miles
Ride the Rockies (RTR) is coming back to the Valley in 2012. The 27th annual cross-Colorado bicycle tour will start in Gunnison June 9, when 2,000 cyclists and teams of RTR support staff will get ready to set out on a six-day, 442-mile journey to Fort Collins, over some of the state’s highest mountain passes and scenic stretches of highway.
“We are at the start of Ride the Rockies,” says Gunnison City Manager Ken Coleman. “That offers an opportunity to put our best foot forward and show what our community has to offer.”
Coleman said in his 30 years in the valley, RTR had gone through Gunnison “a handful of times” but he thinks this is the first opportunity the city has had to host the start of the event.
The Denver Post Ride the Rockies event coordinators pick a route through the state that shows off the scenery and gives riders a challenging taste of what the mountain roads have to offer riders of all ages.
Gunnison Country Chamber of Commerce Director Tammy Scott says the RTR event staff contacted her in mid-October and said Gunnison was one of the cities along their chosen route that was being considered to host a stage of the event. A second call came in December and by mid-December the route had been finalized.
“Of course you’re sworn to secrecy,” Coleman says. Officials announced the set route at a launch party held in Boulder on Saturday, February 4.
After leaving Gunnison early on Sunday, June 10, riders will head west before winding their way along the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to finish the first day of riding in Hotchkiss.
From there it’s 68 miles over McClure Pass and into Carbondale on day two, then Carbondale to Leadville via Independence Pass, at 12,095 feet in elevation, on day three. Day four, from Leadville to Granby, is the longest of the six-day tour. With two options, riders can take the shortcut, which is a mere 92 miles, or the “Century Option” that takes a detour around Williams Fork Reservoir
Day five takes the tour through Rocky Mountain National Park to Estes Park on Trail Ridge Road—the highest continuous highway in the United States that puts riders above 12,000 feet for more than two miles at its peak. The final 55-mile leg of the trip finishes at the Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins on Friday, June 15.
According to race organizers, the seven host cities last year, including Crested Butte, on average saw a direct injection of about $250,000 every day the race was in town.
Coleman says Gunnison is happy to have the extra company. The RE1J School District has agreed to open the Gunnison Community School grounds to participants needing someplace to pitch a tent. Having the school nearby also gives race organizers a place to shelter people, with indoor facilities and kitchen space, Coleman said.
Altogether, the city of Gunnison could see an influx of 2,500 people, dozens of support vehicles and two semi-towed shower trailers to keep everyone clean. Shuttles will also take people to hotels in Crested Butte on Saturday.
Coleman says the city will pick up the tab on permitting the events and keeping participants and spectators safe and secure, but he expects the music and festivities on the day of the start to more than make up for it.
“There’s some cost to the community,” he says. “But when you can bring that kind of visibility to a town and have an opportunity like that to show what you’re made of, and hopefully get some return visitation, it’s a really great thing.”