Holding the USA Pro Challenge costs Breckenridge taxpayers a cool $200,000.
The price is well worth it, according to city officials and organizers as the town prepares to host the event for the fourth straight year.
“The main component to our expenses is lodging,” said Brian Waldes, financial services manager for the town. “To get the race to come here you have to cover the cost to put the racers and their entourages up in lodging.”
Various sponsors also help cover the city’s costs. Other expenses include having extra emergency medical personnel on duty, renting fences and portable toilets as well as putting on a host of ancillary events ranging from the kids Strider Challenge to live stunt demonstrations and concerts.
The city helps keep cost down by utilizing a lot of volunteer labor to organize an event that requires months of planning.
“This isn’t really a town event,” Waldes said. “The volunteers put in much more combined hours into this than the staff.”
And the efforts of those volunteers, which for some requires as much time every week as a part-time job, have paid off.
“We are very privileged to get the Friday finish,” said Jennifer McAtamney, an event organizer. “It shows the hard work and professionalism put together by staff and volunteers in organizing the event.”
Breckenridge, along with Aspen and Denver, are the only three cities to be included in the race in each of the four years it’s been in existence.
“For us it’s about building our brand as a biking destination,” McAtamney added. “We encourage all types of biking, whether it’s riding a cruiser down Main Street, mountain biking or road racing.”
Breckenridge conducted a survey last year to find out how local merchants felt about the race. The reviews were mixed. Some appreciated the national and international attention the race drew to the town. Others were concerned the road closures on race day keep some people from getting to work and prevent would-be patrons from getting to some businesses.
“It doesn’t always lead to a lot of extra business on race day for our local businesses,” Waldes said. “And it hurts a lot of our service businesses on race day. The council is very aware of that. But it’s not as much about doing a lot of business on one day as it is about us building a long-term brand … This event is about being outside, cycling, exercise, the mountains and having a good time. Those are all things that really represent our image and our brand.”
And there are local businesses, not just in Breck but throughout the county, that thrive during the event.
“It’s good for the community,” said Jonathan Enns, marketing manager for Pioneer Sports in Frisco. “And I know for us, this week every year we sell out of all of our demos, our high-end road bikes, from people traveling all over the country who want to ride up here and see the race and ride the same course that a lot of the racers are on. It’s an exiting time for us in the community, and it’s good for business and the economy as a whole to show what amazing biking is available up here.”
Scott Wescott, owner of Wilderness Sports in Dillon and Frisco, agreed.
“I think what it does, from a shop standpoint, is people start to get a feeling for what type of gear and brand and equipment that the pros are riding,” Wescott said. “People want to emulate that. Whether a rec rider or a little more competitive, it brings it to the forefront. Everyone wants to be a little faster or make cycling a little easier.”
And for Breckenridge, it’s about building a brand and associating the town with one of the world’s top five professional road races.
“$200,000 is a lot of money,” Waldes said. “But we feel like it’s a smart use of tax dollars for marketing purposes.”