When the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race sweeps through a corner of Garfield County on its way from Aspen to Crested Butte on Tuesday, Carbondale will be ready.
It’s the not the first time the town has been on the route for a major event. It hosted a criterium as part of the Rocky Mountain Omnium in 2011, Ride the Rockies in 2012 and Bicycle Tour of Colorado last year. The economic impact of such events has proven hard to predict, but Pro Challenge looks like a prime opportunity for community promotion.
Live coverage will have wrapped up by the time bikers enter Carbondale from Catherine Store Road around noon, but the cameras will still be rolling. With a sprint finish at 4th and Main Street — the de facto heart of downtown — officials with the town and Chamber of Commerce are hoping some of the footage will make its way onto national television.
Even if it doesn’t, 80-odd riders and myriad support staff will be unlikely to forget a town that plans on shouting its name in giant chalk letters. The town plans to close Main Street between Third and Weant beginning at 10 a.m. to stencil “Carbondale” down the center — one of the perks of having a concrete main drag.
After that, folks will have about an hour to prove they can color inside the lines in a free-for-all to fill out the letters.
“We want to have a showing and be the town everybody talks about,” said Carbondale Chamber of Commerce executive director Andrea Stewart.
Downtown will also host live music by Mike Waters, live painting by Marcel Kahhak, a farmer’s market and other activities throughout the morning. The chamber is providing around 30 volunteers to help with the event, and the town will have another 30 odd staff on hand.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to promote the business community and promote tourism,” said Stewart. “At the end of the day, we always hope our efforts will encourage people to come back.”
Carbondale Police will help with security and assist with the chalk art closure, while Colorado State Patrol will conduct a rolling closure that will follow the race along its course.
The racers will skirt around Sopris Park and connect with Highway 133 from Weant Boulevard. The route avoids Highway 133 construction and allows for easy viewing access from downvalley. The lunch hour timing should make for a good opportunity for people to catch a section of the race without going all the way to Aspen.
“We’re really encouraging people to make Carbondale their viewing destination,” Stewart said.
Spectators would be well advised to bike, walk, take the bus, or at least make sure to park on the right side of the race. Please obey all parking signs, and do not park on the shoulder of the road. Cars parked illegally along the race route will be towed.
A significant section of town south of Main Street and east of Sopris Park may be cut off for as much as an hour, and the rolling closure will also result in delays throughout the day along State Highway 82 and State Highway 133. The closure starts in Aspen at 10:30 a.m., hits Basalt around 11:30, and passes through Carbondale around noon. McClure Pass will be closed in both directions from roughly 1-3 p.m.
Protocols are in place for emergency and ambulance access, but visitors and residents alike are encouraged to plan ahead.
In the end, the main event is expected to last only a few minutes.
“They’re coming in fast,” noted Carbondale Police Lt. Chris Wurtsmith. “It could be over in the blink of an eye.”