Sharon Sullivan

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December 20, 2012
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Pro Challenge bike race organizers pass on Grand Junction

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Grand Junction will not be among the cities hosting the 2013 USA Pro Challenge bike race, organizers announced Wednesday.

The professional bike race, set for Aug. 19-25, will begin in Aspen and end in Denver. Other cities to host stages of the race include Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Beaver Creek, Vail, Loveland and Fort Collins.

An organizer with Medalist Sports told Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Kelly Flenniken that it would have been too difficult to include the Grand Valley in the route's overall makeup, she said.

"It was geared toward the Front Range," Flenniken said.

Former professional cyclist Scott Mercier, who's a member of the Grand Junction Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the bike race, said organizers are disappointed and will "regroup" to "assess where to go from here."

"We need to sit down and ask: 'Is that the type of event we want to bring here or do we want more participant-focus events?" Mercier said.

"There are some great events coming to town. It does free up resources and time for these other events," such as the Whiskey Creek Mountain Bike race in September, and the Rocky Mountain Cycling conference in April, he said.

"So there is a silver lining - we have these other great events to promote tourism in the valley," Mercier said.

The LOC had pressured the National Park Service to bend its rules and policies to allow the commercial sporting event to take place on Rim Rock Road through Colorado National Monument. The LOC had hoped to include Rim Rock Road in its 2013 proposal to event organizers.

The park service denied a permit for the race, citing impacts to resources and setting a dangerous precedent of allowing a commercial sporting event in a national park.

Flenniken said she was told by Medalist Sports, (the event organizer) that the monument issue was not a factor in denying GJ a race stage.

However, Pro Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter said Wednesday on a phone call with the Free Press that the unavailability of the monument was a factor.

"It's frustrating we can't use the monument," Hunter said.

It won't preclude a race (in Grand Junction) in the future, however, Hunter said.

"Grand Junction is in our long-term plans. We want to come through there," he emphasized.

The costs to host cities, financially and in-kind services varies widely, Hunter said.

Grand Junction had committed $150,000 to offset costs for organizers, if the city was granted a stage of the race. Grand Junction Regional Airport had promised $5,000. Previously, in 2011, the Downtown Development Authority had pledged $5,000.

Mesa County was waiting for more specific details before disclosing what its financial commitment would be, spokeswoman Jessica Peterson said in an e-mail to the Free Press.

It's an investment, Hunter said.

"We realize there's not an overnight return on investment. It's a long-term investment, nationally, and internationally," he said. "We do look for people who have a very long-term view on our race."

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 20, 2012 08:18PM Published Dec 20, 2012 02:52PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.