Following the announcement that both Telluride and Montrose would be host cities for the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge in 2012, tourism officials in both communities spent much of the year preparing for an event that many hoped would bring thousands of spectators and worldwide cycling media coverage to the area. The anticipation outshone the event itself, and led to a subsequent debate, in both municipalities, about whether or not to apply as hosts for 2013. “Thousands of visitors,” Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser predicted in February, nearly two months after it was announced that Telluride would be home to the finish of the race’s stage 1 and Montrose would host the start of Stage 2. “As big as Bluegrass. Bigger than Bluegrass,” he said.
The 2011 first-ever Pro Cycling Challenge, which did not reach southwestern Colorado, was unexpectedly successful in terms of participation from the world’s top bike racers, attendance and media coverage, and by some measures was the biggest sporting event ever held in Colorado. That precedent led organizers in both Telluride and Montrose to anticipate that the 2012 event could be even bigger.
In Telluride, the local organizing committee sought to support the hotels that provide free lodging required for the event by asking the entire lodging community to contribute $15 per night, per room, for rooms not associated with the race. Similarly, restaurants were asked to contribute to a fund to pay for the meals the local committee was obligated to provide to the race. In addition, the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village contributed $37,500 each to cover expenses associated with hosting the event.
Since racers wouldn’t be spending the night in Montrose, the local organizing committee there set out to create a festival atmosphere surrounding the Stage 2 start that would finish in Crested Butte.
In both Telluride and Montrose, the payback for their efforts would not only come from the anticipated hordes of race organizers, international media and spectators generating sales and sales tax dollars, and the vast international media exposure, but also from the expectation that at least some visitors attracted by the event would stay beyond the two nights.
On a rainy yet picturesque late August day in Telluride, Tyler Farrar of Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda sprinted down Telluride’s Main Street to win Stage 1 of the 2012 Pro Cycle Challenge. For those who attended, it was hard to argue that the finish was anything less than thrilling.
The following morning in Montrose was no different. Following a parade-like lap in downtown Montrose, the cyclists sprinted east down Main Street, and impressively and quickly were on their way up Cerro Summit. As quickly has the racers whirred into the region, they sprinted out of the region, leaving the question of whether all the preparation and expense was worth it.
Despite the fact that the local stages of the race went without a hitch, some businesses complained that the race didn’t bring in nearly as many visitors as promised.
“I think we could have handled three times the amount of people," said Michael Martelon, chairman of the organizing committee for the Stage 1 finish in Telluride. “The bottom line is that we spent a lot of time and effort to prepare for what would be … 8,000 to 15,000 people, and I just don't think we saw that here.”
It was estimated that anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 people watched the finish in Telluride. Expecting an influx of customers similar to Telluride’s Fourth of July celebration, the Sweet Life owner Jennifer Hayes prepared by making extra ice cream and specially crafted lollipops for the event.
“We were super, super well stocked and ready,” Hayes said. “It was a little disappointing because we were excited for it to be just crazy. We made a ton of ice cream, but thankfully it didn’t go bad.”
Following the event, both organizing committees concluded that the international coverage the race brought to the area was immeasurable, and both applied to be named host cities again in 2013.
But the route for that race, announced in December, starts in Aspen and ends in Denver, bypassing southwestern Colorado.
While officials from both organizing committees expressed disappointment, there is still hope that the tour will return in the future.
“I believe it’s still in our future, just not for 2013, and that’s fine,” Fraser said. “We will try again next year. I feel really strongly that we had a really good stage. We know what needs to be done, I know we can do it less expensively and I know we can make it function better as an event in Telluride.”