The USA Pro Challenge, a.k.a. The Race of Many Names®, is under way, and so are the rumors that early attendance is not quite what organizers had expected.
In Telluride, The Daily Planet says that the hoped-for 20,000 spectators failed to materialize for the finish to stage one. And in Durango, where the race kicked off, The Durango Herald reported that “the number of tourists in town appeared to be far fewer than the 25,000 city officials had predicted,” adding that there was definitely room at the town’s many inns. The Montrose Daily Press seemed content with a thousand or so folks for the start of stage two. I’ve not looked into the stats for Crested Butte or Aspen*, having my back up against a number of paying chores.
Here in Bibleburg, the city fathers are hoping for 50,000 people to pack the downtown drinking-and-fighting ghetto for Friday’s conclusion to stage five. That would be about half of the throng organizers initially claimed they drew for last year’s prologue, and about five times the size of the crowd that actually showed up, based on estimates by a certain Irish-American cycling scribe of your acquaintance and the usually reliable sources.
Based on recent developments, I’d say they’re whistling past the graveyard. USA Cycling had to cancel a planned “Fun Ride” this past weekend (due to lack of interest, according to one source), and two other supporting events — the SRM Ride with Mario Cipollini and the Ride Stage 5 Criterium are said to be pulling disappointing numbers.
This is not surprising, as most folks who’ve promoted bike races in Bibleburg can tell you. Getting the Boulder-Denver crowd to cross the Palmer Divide is as easy as persuading Mitt Romney to speak the truth. They’re afraid we’ll make ‘em go to church and then scrape the Obama stickers off their Subarus while they’re bubbling in the dunk tank, getting right with Jeebus.
When Team Mad Dog Media-Dogs At Large Velo was still running local cyclo-crosses, it took years to even approach the kind of numbers routinely seen at events up north. We eventually settled into a role of providing what amounted to an easy, early-season, transitional sort of event that let roadies ease back into the notion of getting off the bike now and then. Dudes are worse than cowboys in that regard, always wanting to stay on that horse.
And if you found yourself up against a competing event up north, well, then it was time to piss on the fire and call in the dogs, Hoss. That’s like bringing an old banana to a gunfight.
So, good luck to the grunts shoveling madly away behind the folks with the figures, working stiffs who as always have a tough row to hoe. It’d be nice if this town got a rep’ for something other than GOP asshats, junior-varsity Elmer Gantrys and dark streetlights.
* Late update: The Aspen Times reports fewer fun-lovers on Independence Pass, possibly thanks to an ill-considered ban on camping.