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Alamosa could host Pro Challenge

Posted: Friday, Nov 9th, 2012


This scene from the 2012 USA Pro Challenge in Colorado gives an indication of how many people are involved as participants and spectators. Alamosa might be selected as a stage start for one of the race days next August.


Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Alamosa has a shot at playing host to one leg of the USA version of Tour de France next year.

Promoters will decide by the end of this month whether Alamosa will be chosen as a “stage start” for part of the USA Pro Challenge, similar to the cycling event Tour de France and featuring some of the same competitors.

This will be the third year the race has cycled through Colorado and would be the first time it hit Alamosa, if Alamosa is selected for a portion of the route. The event is held in August.

This year the route stopped or started in 12 Colorado cities, encompassed 683 miles and drew more than a million spectators throughout the course of the seven-day event. The estimated economic impact to Colorado overall was $99.6 million. The race was broadcast internationally to 175 countries and territories around the world.

During their meeting Wednesday night, the Alamosa city council unanimously agreed to send a letter of support with the application due the middle of this month to USA Pro Challenge organizers.

Alamosa Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jamie Greeman said she was not asking the city for cash at this point but stressed the city would have expenses involved in hosting the race. City staff would also have extra duties preparing for the event and managing the additional demands on city services from police to waste management. This could also mean some extra road repair work, she added.

“It isn’t just a one- to two-week commitment. We are talking about from now until August,” she said.

The USA Pro Challenge draws 135 participants from all over the world such as Germany, Spain and Australia, Alamosa Parks & Recreation Director Heinz Bergann explained to the city council. Spectators and sports media also follow the route.

As potential future hosts, Greeman and city parks staff had the opportunity this year to observe behind-the-scenes activities associated with the race at one of its participating cities, Aspen.

The race began in Durango. Gunnison was one of the “stage start” cities, where the cyclists began one of their race days.

In a fast track selection process, Alamosa was invited to apply as a host city in mid-October, with the deadline for the application November 16. The decision will be announced by the end of November.

“They are very interested in hearing what we can offer them,” Greeman said. “This is a huge undertaking.”

However, she added, “It’s a great opportunity to showcase our community.”

Greeman said she believed Alamosa has a really good chance of being selected as a stage-start city for the race.

“They are looking for new and exciting routes,” she said.

She said the riders said they love small communities because of the hospitality they encounter there.

Alamosa City Councilor Marcia Tuggle said the mix of cyclists like flat stretches like the Valley would provide, as well as mountainous terrain. Alamosa would be a great link to both types of terrain.

Alamosa City Manager Nathan Cherpeski agreed. He said American cyclists tend to fare better in the mountains and Europeans on the flat stretches, so it is nice to have a variety to provide a more balanced competition for all participants.

Greeman explained what a “stage start” would entail, if Alamosa is selected. She said Alamosa does not have the capacity in motel/hotel rooms alone to serve as a starting city for the race or a stop where cyclists and all those associated with them would spend the night. That would require more than 500 rooms, which Alamosa currently does not have unless it utilized Adams State dorm rooms. The university would just be commencing its fall session when the race would be coming through, however, so those rooms would not be available.

A stage start would only require 60-70 rooms for some of the folks associated with the event. Cyclists would spend the night elsewhere and come into Alamosa to start the day’s race, if Alamosa was selected as a stage start.

Greeman said fans would probably spend the night in Alamosa, however.

When asked about Adams State’s involvement and support, Greeman said the university administration is very supportive but the timing of the event is difficult because of the opening of the fall session coinciding with the race dates. She said her first preference for the race start, if Alamosa is selected as a stage-start city, would be at Adams State but that may not be possible so the race might have to start from downtown or Cole Park.

Greeman said the estimate to host a stage start is about $25,000, but the convention center is seeking other funding than the city coffers for that.

Bergann said between the city and college, Gunnison spent about $45,000 as a stage start city.

City Clerk Judy Egbert, who participated as a volunteer this year at the starting host city, Durango, said many of the stage start cities will do a parade lap through town before the cyclists take off for the day.

City councilors talked about the advantages to bringing this type of event to Alamosa and some of the obstacles. Tuggle raised the issue of the highway work on Highway 160, for example. She said cyclists would have to take an alternative route if the highway work was still going on during the time of the 2013 race. Greeman said that would be a decision USA Pro Challenge would make in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

City councilors were enthusiastic in their support of the event.

Cherpeski said this would not be a moneymaker for the city but would be like “a very expensive commercial.”

He said it cost Gunnison $66,000 to serve as a stage start this year, and Durango, which hosted a seven-day gala to kick off the event, spent half a million dollars.

Bergann added the exposure from this event is not just national but worldwide.

“You couldn’t afford to buy advertising like this,” added Marketing Board Chairman Jeff Woodward. “There’s no doubt in my mind we can do this, and it will be a showcase because I don’t care what you do in Alamosa, the people do it right.”

Tuggle added, “We are great at hospitality. I really feel we can do a great job with this … I don’t see real big negatives with this.”

Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers said, “It sounds like a wonderful opportunity and a lot of work. You are all awesome at that. I don’t see us going wrong.”

“This is a perfect opportunity to get Alamosa on the map,” said Councilman Leland Romero.

“We are always talking about economic development,” said Councilman Charles Griego. “What better way to expose our city … to people of the world than an event like this? Whatever amount we have to come up with, I think it’s money well spent.”

Griego said Alamosa needs to involve other communities in the San Luis Valley in this as well so the Valley as a whole is promoted, not just Alamosa. He also said the city staff need to be on board with this since they will have extra work. Cherpeski said city staff could not do it by themselves. Community volunteers would have to be involved as well.

“It will be a lot of work,” he said.

Greeman said participating cities set up a local organizing committee that would incorporate as many as 20 people or so.

“It’s huge,” she said.














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