Mon August 20, 2012

Durango Ready To Roll As Stage 1 For USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Communities across the state are getting ready to welcome the top cyclists in the world for the second annual USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The cycling race begins Monday in Durango where many locals are excited but also uncertain whether it’ll mean a boost to businesses.

Durango has spent months preparing for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge fixing roads and putting up banners. The city even commissioned a cycling statue to place along the route on Florida Road.

Mayor Doug Lyon says the race will showcase Colorado’s quintessential mountain town to the world. “We know how wonderful it is here and this gives us a chance to share our beautiful surroundings.’

Stage 1 Map: Durango to Telluride.
Credit USA Pro Cycling Challenge

The seven-day stage race will have one of the best professional cycling fields ever assembled on American soil according to the race promoters. But for state leaders and businesses owners the race is also an opportunity to market Colorado in front of millions on TV.

“I think it’s definitely one of the biggest things to come to Durango. We’re going to deck out the gallery with jerseys and bikes,’ says Brandon Donahue, manager at Open Shutter Gallery located on Main Street in Durango.

Eric Kiesel operates a T-shirt shop, also along Main Street, “The more rear ends on that street that walk into my business the more stuff I sell. It’s a direct correlation.” While the race will bring more foot traffic to downtown, he also knows shopping won’t be the main focus.“When they tend to shut down the street I have mixed results, sometimes it doesn’t affect my business but for some events my sales drop significantly. So I guess we’ll see.”

Waiting and seeing seems to be the dominant attitude from most businesses in town. Tim Wheeler owns the Durango Coffee Company retail store. Since the pro challenge is only in its second year, there’s not much history to look back on.

“We’ve kind of gotten mixed reports about the impact in various communities that the bike race went through, some had a very big impact, others less so,” says Wheeler.

A survey from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association showed that nearly half of downtown businesses saw no increase in sales, and some saw decreases during the inaugural race last year.

Aspen mayor Mick Ireland disagrees. To him, investing in the Pro Challenge will pay off. “The foolish way to look at things is well, did you get as much revenue on that day as you spent on the event. That’s short-term thinking. The exposure to millions and millions of Europeans who are cycling crazy who see Aspen as a bike destination, not just skiing or a music festival, is a huge impact. I think the other resorts feel the same way.”

He’s not alone. Governor John Hickenlooper agrees that the race is a long term investment. He says it’s a huge marketing tool with NBC sports broadcasting the event in about 200 countries.

“It shows our beauty and splendor and our can do spirit. And even more than that it’s marketing to ourselves and allowing Coloradans to say, wow, how lucky am I to get to live in Colorado.”

Riders will climb over 40 thousand vertical feet, and have three uphill finishes before the race ends in Denver August 26th.

Pro Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter says the race should go down to the final moments. “France will always be France but we would not mind someday, maybe it’s ten years from now, people considering us the second best race in the world.