Feds to take 2nd look at bike race in monument
GRAND JUNCTION – Colo. Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper are asking federal officials to reconsider a proposal to stage a portion of the Quiznos Pro Challenge bicycle race in the Colorado National Monument.
An organizing committee from Grand Junction, the community next to the western Colorado site, wants part of the inaugural race, set for late August, to go through the monument.
The National Park Service rejected the proposal in December because of concerns about the potential effects on the area’s native vegetation and fragile soil and wildlife, including bighorn sheep and eagles. Joan Anzelmo, superintendent of the monument, said Monday that organizers have estimated the race could draw 30,000 to 50,000 people to the area.
However, Park Service officials are reviewing a new proposal from local organizers and have asked to meet with them the first week in March.
“To have a mega sports event like this typically is not compatible with the natural and cultural resources of a national park site,” Anzelmo said. “We’re looking at what could potentially work and what definintely cannot work.”
Udall and Hickenlooper wrote in a letter sent Monday to John Wessels, regional director of the Park Service, that if the race can be staged responsibly, “showcasing this majestic area as part of the world-class cycling event will bring beneficial commerce and attention to this important part of the state.”
The event would also boost the monument’s stature at a time when people are pushing to see the site made a national park, Udall and Hickenlooper wrote.
Lance Armstrong was instrumental in establishing the new race, which is scheduled Aug. 22-28 and will consist of seven stages through 11 cities across Colorado. Armstrong’s team has signed up to take part.
Colorado National Monument is 32 square miles of towering red-rock monoliths, canyons and a 23-mile road carved out of mountainsides. It has become popular with cyclists and hosted a stage of the Coors Classic bicycle race in the 1980s. It was part of last year’s Denver Post Ride the Rockies bicycle tour and a bike tour sponsored by an area hospital.
Anzelmo said much has changed, including park regulations, since the Coors Classic was staged in the monument. The bicycle tours don’t draw the crowds that a professional race would, she added. The historic Rim Rock Drive, a narrow, winding two-lane road, would have to accommodate about 140 cyclists, nearly 50 support vehicles, support personnel and volunteers, Anzelmo said.
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