After missing out on pro-cycling for the summer of 2011, a local group is working hard to bring the 'Quizno's Pro Challenge' bike race to Grand Junction in 2012.
The planned route would take riders through downtown and up over the Colorado National Monument, but a national parks policy could jeopardize the proposal all together.
Professional sporting events aren't usually allowed on park land. But, that's only one of the issues here. The bigger question is, does something like this bike race belong on the monument?
'Share the Road' signs are posted all over the Colorado National Monument. And now, a group of local organizers is hoping to take them at more than face value. "This is [an] international, elite level race," John Hopkins, an advocate for a Grand Junction stage in the pro race said.
His group's plan would shut the Monument down for a handful of hours and bring hundreds of professional bikers to the area. It's part of the 'Quizno's Challenge' that is set to bring pro bike-racing back to the state for the first time since 1988. This year, the circuit is racing in cities from Denver to Aspen.
"We are continuing to evaluate that," Colorado National Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said of the Grand Junction proposal.
She says that she is willing to work with local organizers, but there is one big problem standing in the way. "The national park's policies do not allow commercial, professional events from taking place in national parks and national monuments."
In 2009, Anzelmo says Yosemite National Park turned down the 'Tour of California' because of the same policy. "Operating as a park superintendent, I'm bound to follow the laws and the policies of the agency," Anzelmo said of Grand Junction's situation.
But, back in the 1980's there was professional racing on the Monument. 'The Tour of the Moon' was the part of the 'Coors Classic' that featured this land formation.
Simply put, Anzelmo says today's racing world has changed during the past 30 years. "All of the things that are required for a 2012 race are quite different than what we required in the 80's."
Anzelmo also raised concerns about the funding for the project. Even though there hasn't been any estimate to the cost of putting such a thing on, she still has worries. "What are the sacrifices that are going to be asked of the entire community when we bring this in," she asked. "And does it equate to the revenues? How do we reimburse our cost for doing this?"
"There still are a lot of economic questions that have to be asked." Anzelmo says there are just too many uncertainties for her to feel comfortable entering into any kind of agreement right now. But she didn't leave out the possibility of a compromise. "If they can pull back on some of the requirement, there's a possibility that we can find a way to permit something."
Local organizers are also worried about the costs. "We've got a lot of data from the California area where they are currently racing," Hopkins said. "We have to take that and apply that to our community to see if we would be comfortable with the cost."
It's all work that they are willing to do. And they are happy to see the Monument at the table, as well. "The Monument would clearly makes this a signature event," Hopkins said.
Both the Monument and local organizers are meeting later this month as they continue talks. That is when we should have a better idea of what that means for their relationship moving forward on this project.
Earlier in the process, a proposal to circle the Monument three times in the race was denied by the Monument. Citing things like the natural resources, visitor priority, and park policies, Anzelmo turned it down.
Since then, the local group has proposed an alternative that includes bikers coming to Grand Junction from Gateway, up around the Monument twice, and back into downtown Grand Junction again. Anzelmo said there is no way to know if an agreement can be reached and that "Parks across the nation are watching to see what happens here with this race."