Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs has known of its inclusion in the 2011 Quiznos Pro Challenge bike stage race for less than a week.
The actual event, a new seven-stage road race expected to attract only the world’s most elite cyclists, still is more than nine months away.
Steamboat’s pistons already are pumping, however, and even as local cyclists took to the roads and trails to soak up a warm late-fall Saturday afternoon, many minds were focused on the riders who might thunder down the same routes next August and what their arrival in town will mean.
Grant Fenton, at the spearhead of the town’s efforts to earn the moniker “Bike Town USA,” summed up a city’s feelings and its enthusiasm.
“The word I keep coming back to is catalyst,” he said. “This is really exciting.”
Steamboat Springs was one of 11 cities included as parts of a stage in the inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge.
Steamboat, unlike any of other cities, will be a part of two stages. The fifth stage, a ride from Avon, will end in Steamboat. The sixth will start in Steamboat and end in Breckenridge.
One of the most obvious advantages — especially considering the overnight stay to be made by the roughly 120 riders and the hundreds, even thousands, of fans, media and crew — is an economic boost.
The riders will arrive on a Friday, doing for local businesses what late-summer weekend crowds often can’t.
“This is good for economic development, good for tourism,” Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said when revealing the ride’s host cities Thursday. “We will be the premier stage race in America, here in Colorado.”
Situated after major summer draws such as the fireworks, the balloons and the art and before the always-busy Labor Day weekend, the Aug. 22 to 28 race should be sweet to local coffers.
In 2009, the occupancy rate for lodging in Steamboat topped off at 44 percent. The Quiznos Pro Challenge could mean Christmas in August for local condo and hotel owners and retailers if that same weekend soars to approach big winter weekend numbers.
“I don’t expect there to be an open bed in town that night,” said Robin Craigen, observing the possibilities from two sides, as the president of Routt County Riders and the vacation home rentals business Moving Mountain Chalets. “You’ll see a nice uptick in sales for a week in August that’s usually a very low week for the lodging business.”
The race should be sweet for the state, sweet for business owners and sweet for locals. Plans still are embryonic, but organizers said that Friday night should be one to remember, with entertainment and concerts ready to delight visitors and locals alike.
“There’s a local organizing committee that is really dedicated toward putting on just a fantastic weekend,” Fenton said. “There will be a significant amount of entertainment, and it should just be a real fun, festive atmosphere. It’s a pretty exciting opportunity.”
Bike Town bump
The optimism about what the Quiznos Pro Challenge could do for Steamboat’s balance sheet isn’t limited to the short term, either.
Members of the Bike Town USA Initiative, who point to cycling as a major future local economic driver, said the race could be yet another push for a wagon that’s already gained surprising momentum, especially after last month’s Steamboat Springs Bike Summit.
“There’s been a realization in our community that we really have an opportunity to do some really special things in regard to cycling,” said Fenton, chairman of the Bike Town task force. “By getting such a large-caliber race to come into town, that’s going to be a catalyst to get some of those projects done. There’s a real willingness to get them done, and a lot of people from across the community are excited to help.”
The group still is working on prioritizing the potential projects. After that, it will try to secure funding.
The group is excited, especially amid the overwhelming outpouring of volunteers and ideas — for projects and funding sources — since the summit.
High on the list will be a signage program that will help label everything from trails on the ski mountain to the best way from an east-side condo to a downtown restaurant.
Steamboat Ski Area will begin work on its freeride bike park in spring, and several new singletrack trails should be ready soon after the snow melts.
“People are fired up,” Craigen said.
Start of something great
This could be only the start of “fired up.”
The Quiznos Pro Challenge will roll into town in what should be a cycling frenzy. The Tour de Steamboat ride will go off in mid-July with 500 cyclists. Ride 4 Yellow, which captivated Steamboat and raised more than $300,000 for cancer research in its inaugural ride in August, will return Aug. 7.
The third annual Steamboat Stage Race will follow the week after the Quiznos race, and the second annual Steamboat Cyclocross race will be a week after that.
“The way it works in a lot of towns, when they host a big event like this, the smaller races definitely see a bump,” said Corey Piscopo, race director for the Steamboat Stage Race and the cyclocross event. “This will definitely have a big impact on our turnout (for the Steamboat Stage Race), especially being a week after. A lot of the professional-level riders may come back to make a little money, and the amateur racers in Colorado are going to be all fired up to go out and do their own stage race.”
He estimated that riders in his four-day event could spike from about 350 to 450, or higher.
Like so many others, he’s eagerly awaiting summer.
“It’s outstanding,” he said. “Credit definitely needs to go out to the individuals who made this a reality. We weren’t a shoo-in by any means, but this is an awesome opportunity for Steamboat.”