Joel Reichenberger: Cycling events should be built to last

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

— In conversations about cycling in Steamboat Springs, the term “big events” is frequently tossed around, as in, look at the economic impact that can be gained from these “big events.”

The primary evidence cited to this point is based on recreational bike tours and races such as Ride the Rockies, the Bicycle Tour of Colorado and, of course, the Pro Cycling Challenge, which is due for its second stop in Steamboat later this summer.

There’s compelling evidence that those events bring an economic boost to the local economy, but I’ve never much cared for them as examples.

Looking forward to this summer, however, I see a “big event” approach that seems much more beneficial for Steamboat Springs, both for its people and its economy.

By building on top of events that already exist in the city, Steamboat has a chance to realize something the tenuous nature of bike tours and the Pro Cycling Challenge can never provide.

The first example is the celebration being planned around Steamboat Ski Area’s trail openings June 13 to 16.

In recent years, the newspaper announced the opening of the ski area’s summer trials only after a game of phone tag with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s public relations department.

This year, there’s a date and a plan that mirrors the ski area’s carefully scripted and successful winter opening plans. There will be a Scholarship Day fundraiser June 13, then the gondola will open for real June 14, kicking off a weekend of activities.

The first two races in the Enduro-X Cup will follow June 15 and 16. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Bike Swap and various smaller bike-related events will fill the weekend.

The change is partly related to the addition of downhill trails on Mount Werner. Without downhill trails there wasn’t nearly as much of a need for an official “opening date” and trail availability really did hinge simply on the weather.

Weather will certainly still be a factor. Things should be good to go this year, but it’s only a matter of time until a cold spring interferes with summer biking plans. But, building up that opening weekend by adding races and events gives people a reason to come, and it’s a reason we know will be here this year, and next year and the year after that.

You can’t say that about the Pro Cycling Challenge.

As much fun may be ahead later this month, the “Bike Week” that’s being pieced together in August should be even more grand. There, organizers hope to use the sold-out Steamboat Stinger mountain bike race on Aug. 17 and the Pro Cycling Challenge’s arrival Aug. 21 to anchor a wealth of events built around cycling in Steamboat.

That week will include two more stages of the Enduro-X series, a bike-in movie downtown, the fund-raising Emerald Mountain Epic trail ride and a handful of other smaller events. It will also include the Steamboat Triathlon and the Steamboat Stinger running marathon, both Aug. 18, and the Continental Divide Trail Run on Aug. 24.

It’s tough to imagine a week with more potential to show off Steamboat Springs in the summer — its cycling trails and virtually everything else.

I’d love to see the week loaded up even more, packed with enough fun to get people to town and keep them here for one last blast of cycling fun before school starts again.

Even as is, however, I see the week as a bigger potential boon to Steamboat and its cycling dreams than any one-off event.

One-off events are great. Those involved in securing a bike tour and Pro Cycling Challenge stop in Steamboat are doing a major service for the town. Still, those events don’t constitute lasting progress. Recurring events that Steamboat controls can generate that progress and ensure it remains here, paying off for the town and showing off its assets for years to come.

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