Pro Cycling Challenge to challenge local agencies |

Pro Cycling Challenge to challenge local agencies

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Local agencies are gearing up for the challenges of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, an event that could bring some 25,000 to 50,000 spectators to Aspen and Independence Pass on Aug. 24, though no one knows for sure.

“There’s a big difference between 25,000 and 50,000,” said Jim Richardson, director of the Aspen Ambulance District, which has arranged to nearly double the size of its fleet for the event.

Everything from local bus service to food deliveries and government services will be affected by the pro bike race, which will shut down Highway 82 over Independence Pass and result in street closures that will make most of the downtown core off-limits to vehicular traffic.

But Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is expected to be open as usual. So is the county library, a block from the race finish line in front of the county courthouse on Main Street.

“I figure people will need access to the Internet and the wireless in here, and people will need to use the bathrooms,” said Librarian Kathy Chandler, explaining the library’s decision to remain open as usual. “We just figured it was a public service.”

In both city and county government, some offices will be closed, and some staffers will be working the race rather than their usual duties. At City Hall, which will be closed, many staffers had the option of joining the race work crew or taking a paid vacation day. The restrooms on the first floor at City Hall will remain accessible.

With much of the downtown open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, the delivery of meals to the homebound, a county Senior Services function, will be suspended on Aug. 24, but there will be extra meals on the prior Monday to tide recipients over if need be. Lunch and other activities at the Senior Center also will be canceled on race day.

The county is exploring options to control access to the parking lot at Health and Human Services on the outskirts of town, as parking spots are likely to be in demand. So is nearby Aspen Valley Hospital, where the staff to handle the emergency room, operating room and in-patient care will be ramped up Aug. 23-25, according to Ginny Dyche, director of AVH community relations. The response is not unlike the hospital’s preparation for Winter X Games, she added.

The hospital also will set up a first-aid tent downtown to handle bumps and bruises, dehydration and that sort of thing.

“You have that many people in town, you’re going to have medical stuff,” Dyche said.

A medical staff that travels with the multistage tour will accompany the pro bicyclists, but the hospital will be prepared for bike crash victims, be they professional riders or spectators coming down from the pass after the racers speed into town.

“We’re told that probably the bike crashes are least likely to involve the actual racers,” Dyche said.

On race day, a St. Mary’s Care Flight helicopter out of Grand Junction will be stationed on the AVH chopper pad, while a Flight for Life helicopter will be on the far side of Independence Pass, outside of Twin Lakes, according to Richardson.

The Aspen Ambulance District will complement its six ambulances with five others, from Snowmass Village and elsewhere. They will be stationed at points from the summit of the pass down into Aspen, prepared to respond to race-related incidents as well as anything that happens elsewhere in the district.

“Do we need 11? Who knows?” Richardson said. “I think the big unknown is how many spectators will show up.”

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will add 16 extra buses to handle the anticipated crowds, with the Brush Creek intercept lot’s 1,800 spaces designated to handle the load of parked cars, according to Nancy Leslie, the city’s director of special events. The Rodeo Lot in Snowmass Village is the back-up lot, if the Brush Creek lot fills up. Visitors can park at the lots and travel in and out of town by bus.

The Rio Grande parking garage in Aspen will be unavailable to the public on race day.

In Aspen, the Hunter Creek and Mountain Valley bus routes will suspend service at 10 a.m. on Aug. 24, but a large bus rather than the usual small shuttle will serve the Mountain Valley route until then to help move people into the core. Service on the routes is expected to resume at 6 p.m. or so, Leslie said.

In the core, crews will begin posting signs 72 hours in advance to notify motorists about the Aug. 24 street closures. Waste haulers, food and beverage suppliers and other delivery services will find the closures in place by 6 a.m. on race day. Restaurants have been advised to stock up for the anticipated crowds with bigger deliveries earlier in the week, Leslie said.

Vehicles parked on closed streets in town will be towed, she said.

On the tight confines of the pass, the county Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and Forest Service, augmented by towing, will manage the crowds and keep people from parking where they shouldn’t, Leslie said.

Parking along the highway is the domain of deputies and the State Patrol, but the Forest Service will be watching the tender tundra at the pass summit, where some 5,000 spectators are predicted, according to Bill Kite, community liaison with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

“What we’re concerned about at the top of the pass is people impacting the alpine zone,” he said. “It doesn’t need 5,000 people walking around off the trail up there.”

The agency is also concerned about illegal camping: Campgrounds on the pass will be full, Kite predicted, and the Forest Service has asked the city about allowing camping the night before the event at its Cozy Point Ranch. It hasn’t received an answer, he said.

In town, spectators can view the action along the route and on three big screens – at Wagner Park, at Cooper and Galena, and on Mill Street near Main Street. In addition, there will be live, televised coverage on Versus from 2-4 p.m.

It will be business as usual for some in Pitkin County government, though the county annex building and courthouse are a stone’s throw from the finish line.

County commissioners have canceled their Aug. 24 meeting, but staffers in the annex building will be working there or from home, and the Clerk and Recorder’s Office will remain open as usual. The annex building’s restrooms will be closed to the public.

Some employees are volunteering to work at the event, or using leave time to view the race.

In the courthouse, the treasurer and assessor’s offices will be open until noon on race day, then the courthouse will be closed to the public.

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