It’s like the Super Bowl of cycling
While a single village might raise a child, it takes two to host a bike race as big as Tuesday’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage that comes through the valley.
“It’s got a whole lot of moving parts,” said Crested Butte Mayor Aaron “Huck” Huckstep, chairman of the local organizing committee for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. He attributes last summer’s success to an army of volunteers from both Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte. “And I would include [Crested Butte Mountain Resort] in that, too,” he said. “William Buck [mayor of Mt. Crested Butte] and I have a good working relationship. This event has built a connection between the towns. Both town councils are behind it. Also, people may not realize it, but the town staffs are highly involved. Execution takes everybody.”
There are sponsorships to attain, operations, marketing and public relations, a finish-line festival, coordination between the Public Works Department and the police. “I could give you a list of 20 people who are crucial to this,” he said.
The race brings 126 of the best professional cyclists to the Rocky Mountains, where they are pitted against one another over some of the most demanding, high-altitude road riding in the world.
The towns themselves may not fill up with riders, their entourages and packs of rabid fans, but lodges are certainly fuller than they otherwise would be in these waning days of the summer season.
“Occupancy was high last year,” said Huckstep. “This event anchors the end of summer.” More important, he said, “It creates a memorable image for viewers and announcers. Last year, they were talking about Crested Butte long after the event. The perspective of the towns is one of long-term economic impact.”
The race will be broadcast by NBC for 25 hours to 161 countries and more than a million viewers. It features a field of elite athletes from around the globe, many of whom are household names throughout Europe, with several coming off recent competition at the Tour de France. “We love cycling and we want to show off our valley,” said Huckstep.
Certainly, the elite caliber of these riders is something special, but the ability of fans to connect with the competitors is unique.
These guys, according to Huckstep, are the equivalent of Super Bowl or World Series participants in their sport, yet you could never get this close to Eli Manning. “It’s free. There’s no huge security, and spectators get to interface with the athletes. You can get as close as you want, and mingle with them at the finish line.”
There are maps to print and port-a-potties to position. Huckstep said that huge efficiencies were gained in hosting the USAPCC last year, making this year’s logistics go smoother. The race has a 10-year commitment with the state and, in theory, host cities could change every year. “I don’t think race organizers want to start with a whole new group of inexperienced host communities. We work well together,” said Huckstep. What impressed race organizers, he said, was the communities’ unique approach to tackling the event—“Our can-do, yet laid-back attitude,” he said.
Festivities this week will include a block party Monday night, August 20, on Elk Avenue between 2nd and 3rd streets. New Belgium Brewing Company will bring its Tour de Fat to town, billed as, “A ballyhoo of bikes and beer.”
“It’s usually reserved for much bigger places,” said Huckstep.
Stage 2 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge takes racers from Montrose to Crested Butte on August 21, and Stage 3 rolls from Gunnison to Aspen on August 22.
After last year’s race, the original, ad-hoc local organizing committee formed the non-profit Elk Mountain Events, which has helped with such things as insurance and legal issues surrounding the USAPCC this year.
The new, 501-C4 organization also supports other new, non-profit events. “If you want to start something new, you can come to us for administrative, insurance and legal advice, coordination of volunteers and sponsorship connections.”
Since its inception, Elk Mountain Events has helped with Alpine Odyssey, a mountain bike race that’s part of the Leadville 100 series, and the Cosmic (ski mountaineering) Race, and has assisted with administration for the Al Johnson Uphill Downhill Telemark Race.
For details of the this week’s race, see page 21.