Courage Classic could ride away from Summit
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Courage Classic road bike tour could go by the wayside if Summit County commissioners approve a regulation Dec. 8 banning the closure of Swan Mountain Road for special events.
The issue comes up almost every time event promoters request to close a road, but came to a head two summers ago after a classic car show closed Swan Mountain Road for a hill climb.
The proposed regulation would ban all special events from using Swan Mountain Road.
“That puts us in an extremely difficult position,” said Raymond Saperstein, tour director for the Courage Classic. “It’s a very, very good possibility that it might preclude our ability to hold the event in Summit County.”
The Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing about the proposed changes at its regular meeting at 1 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge.
The Courage Classic is one of a handful of special events whose officials have requested to close Swan Mountain Road to vehicular traffic. The bike race attracts thousands of bicyclists who raise about $1 million each year for Children’s Hospital in Denver.
The event has been based at Copper Mountain for the past 12 of its 15 years, Saperstein said. The race starts in Leadville, heads east to Copper Mountain, into Frisco, south to Breckenridge, over Swan Mountain Road to Keystone, then west to Dillon, over the Dillon Dam Road to Frisco and Copper Mountain.
“We’d encourage the commissioners’ support for this,” said Copper Mountain spokesman Matt Sugar. “It’s a good thing to do. We hope it continues to have community support. It brings a lot of people here for a worthy cause. Hopefully, they’ll take a second look.”
The event is planned for July 17-19, 2004. Team Evergreen’s Triple Bypass bike ride, which has used Swan Mountain Road in the past, is slated for July 10, 2004.
That ride goes over Loveland Pass, then Vail Pass, and doesn’t have to have Swan Mountain Road on its route. Team Evergreen officials have yet to be notified of the possible changes, and no one was available at its office Monday afternoon.
Saperstein said the loop is vital for the success of his event.
“Without Swan Mountain Road, we would have to go in both directions on the Dam Road,” he said. “That would be 2,000 people plus the usual people that are on the path.”
Commissioner Bill Wallace has argued in favor of closing the road for events that have historically needed the road to make a loop to visit the various towns in Summit County.
He believes a situation could be worked out between bicyclists, vehicles and the owners of Swan Mountain Inn and the Blue River Saloon, both of whom have spoken out against closing Swan Mountain Road.
Another option could be to allow event promoters to hold their events, but require them to share the road with others.
“I don’t know if we’re asking for trouble on that one or not,” Wallace said. “I would hope maybe they could do it that way, just deal with the traffic.”
Saperstein said that might be acceptable, but he expressed concerns about safety for all road users.
“Is it in the best interest to say, “We’re not going to close the road but you can go there anyway’?” Saperstein said. “Or is it better to put in procedures to make it better for everybody.”
Saperstein said banning events on Swan Mountain Road would adversely affect the county, which benefits from the money racers spend during the three-day event.
Although racers ride through three of Summit County’s six incorporated towns – Blue River, Silverthorne and Montezuma are not on the route – riders are staged at Copper Mountain. Tax revenue generated at that resort benefits Summit County.
“It’d have an impact to the county, if all of a sudden they’re taking away a successful event,” Sugar said. “It brings lodging dollars, restaurant dollars. I hope the commissioners can come to grips and make it work.”
“It’s quite a rash decision by the Summit County commissioners,” Saperstein said. “Not only will it affect us, but it will affect Summit County in a much greater way.”
County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said the commission is leaning toward approving the changes, but that no decisions will be made until the public hearing next month.
“The writing’s on the wall,” he said. “We would ultimately have to leave Summit County. We’re going to fight this as long and hard as we can, but our options are limited. This late in the game, it’s a severe hardship on the event and the hospital.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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