USA Pro Challenge

Small towns will wave as racers speed through

The route planned for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which passes through Montezuma County on Monday, is disappointing for Cortez merchants.

The race begins in Durango, turns northwest on Highway 184 in Mancos and northeast onto Highway 145 in Dolores. After 125 miles of pedaling along two sides of a geographic triangle, riders will end up in Telluride, almost directly north of where they began.

They will not, however, pass through Cortez.

The race, which features the worldís best cyclists, will bring significant income to Durango and Telluride, because the riders, their support crews and their fans will spend nights in those communities. Lodging, dining and entertainment will bring a revenue boost to those communities just as the summer tourist season is beginning to wane.

Mancos, Dolores and Rico will profit less, as the race will move quickly past both towns. The sprint line in Dolores will draw spectators, and people who just want to watch the racers go by may have lunch as well, especially since once the cyclists reach Dolores, thereís no effective way to go around them and get ahead for another look. All three communities deserve kudos for figuring out ways to attract and serve race fans. Cortez will host some who want to spend more time in the southwest corner of the state.

Itís well worth noting that these events donít just happen. Communities lobby hard to be a part of them, assembling packages that demonstrate support for the sport and adequate amenities for participants and followers. Whether the activity is road biking or riding on fatter tires, motorcycling, kayaking, ballooning, archaeology, wine tours, hunting, ski racing, fishing, classic cars, backpacking, rodeo, mushrooming, music or any other attraction one could name, municipalities and tourism groups work to add incentives for people to enjoy that activity locally instead of somewhere else.

Not every sport is appropriate for every place. Montezuma County is not a mecca for downhill skiing or sea kayaking, for celebrating the harvest of melons or the king salmon run, nor for many groups of aficionados that cannot be attracted here, no matter how intensive the effort. There are others that arenít high on the list of groups locals want to bring in anyway. For some attractions, though, it is unparalleled, and those who seek to promote such activities generally do a very good job.

When an event comes off seamlessly, much of that work is invisible. When something goes wrong or when event organizers choose to go elsewhere, many people are willing, if not entirely qualified, to comment on whatís gone wrong. And when a very prestigious bike race bypasses Cortez by less than a dozen miles, itís easy to say that the route should have been different.

A birdís-eye view of the schedule of events for this summer demonstrates that Montezuma County has been a very busy place. A fairly small group of very active organizers, along with a much larger contingent of willing workers, deserves credit for that. Donít discount all that happens to bring visitors here.