Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Protestations: One bicyclist's take on the Tour of Colorado Springs

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM

  • Flickr / State Library of Victoria Collections

As we reported last week, the proposed Tour of Colorado Springs had bicycle enthusiasts in the community stoked about what could potentially draw thousands of people and continue to solidify the city's place as a biking mecca.

Then all that fizzled, at least for a year, when Mayor Steve Bach withdrew his support.

This has proven hard for supporters to take. One prominent individual put his thoughts into writing; he requested anonymity essentially to protect himself from political backlash from city leaders. Click below the fold to see it in its unedited form.

Bach in Action and the Tale of the Tour

The Tour of Colorado Springs could have brought in a significant opportunity to our town. It could have given us a stimulating nipple twist and left a joyous smile upon General Palmer’s traffic-impeding statue. But not this year, folks. It wasn’t meant to be. It was shoved aside, stamped with a “2013” label, and put in the slush pile.

“We’ll be back next year and we’ll be stronger,” says David Whitaker, the brass-balled conductor of the train.

In case you missed the bus, The Tour of Colorado Springs is what many residents thought would put Colorado Springs on the map as a cycling town. Maybe, maybe not. We’re already on that map. The flurry of cycling events that has locust’d the city these past three years has done that.

But regardless, the Tour was to be a 105 mile ride around the perimeter of the city. Locals were excited. Tourists would have been too. It was estimated to bring 1,500 to 2,000 cyclists to the city roads and make a $2-3 million impact in its first year. I don’t know about the logic of those numbers, but perhaps Whitaker is privy to something that we are not.

Whitaker brought the notion of the ride to the Mayor and City Council. To pull off the ride, he needed to pinch a high dollar ticket from the city and required law enforcement personnel. An $89,000 sting and the police.
And make no mistake folks, this would need a gaggle of the boys-in-blue to keep the ignorant spandex-ers riding five abreast on the road from being run down by wild-eyed brutes in pickups who have difficulty reading the written word much less understanding the concept of “Share the Road”.

Council reacted. Bernie Herpin smiled at the idea, liking the event’s potential to improve the city’s reputation as the amateur sports capital of the country. Angela Dougan scoffed at the burden it put on the police. As an officer’s wife, she was in the right to do so. Tim Leigh did his usual song and dance about making the issue a vehicle for personal political gain as he did last year with the Sharrow Project downtown, the results of which can only be described as FUBAR. But we’ll thank him for his work in ten years when the city has a brainier cycling infrastructure, and we’ll admire the man for being such a talented clairvoyant.

When asked if he dresses to the left or right of supporting the Tour of Colorado Springs, Mayor Steve Bach said yes and then scurried into privacy to adjust himself accordingly.

When it was all worked out, Bach stuck his thumb to the ground and the word “denied” appeared on his forehead. Too hastily put together, not enough time to ensure success, and no business plan was seen — all of these were tossed out as reasons for the verdict.

We can’t fault the Mayor for this decision. It’s his job to make sure the budget is spent wisely. There is no guarantee that the city will earn the projected impact, or that the event will even give a subpar performance and break into the black. Calling the man a “fool” is foolish.

But was it the right move? Only our counterparts in a parallel universe where this ride was given the bugle charge will know that answer.

Whitaker has painstakingly modeled The Tour of Colorado Springs after the El Tour De Tucson, an event that brings 9,000 riders to the sizzling summer roads in Arizona, and puts a giant syringe loaded with $25 million to the local economic vein.

Whitaker’s no boob, mind you. The man ran KOAA channel 5 for years , and before that they called him chief at FOX. He knows the community, has a fat rolodex of contacts, and a nose for success. He’s a proven business man, more competent than Tim Tebow in the final five of quarter four. If he says there’s a way to make this event successful, then there certainly lacks no will.

There are other cycling events in town that should be considered world-class. The Assault on the Peak, a bike ride to Pikes’ summit, should be a national draw for cyclists. If it gets enough time, it will be. The event is capped at 1,500 riders. For now, it’s eeking by on no more than 350 braves.

The 24 Hours of Colorado Springs, held on Palmer Park last year, wrapped up its first as a national championship event for 24 hour mountain bike racing. It had under 300 riders.

Don’t be discouraged. Both of those events are driven relentlessly by seasoned pros who are smarter than 99% of the population. Both events drew participation from not only other states, but other countries. They will get there.

It’s events like these that protect the city from decay. Cycling is an exciting way to squeeze the local dollar udder.

Can a ride like The Tour of Colorado Springs be successful? Yes it can, but it will take time and it will need support. Whitaker is borderline Einstein, he’s in that top 1%, and when such a man wants to bring an event like this to our town, we need to nod in agreement and see what happens. After all, what if the world told Einstein that science was a waste of time? We would have all regressed to Neanderthals, fumbling to make fire and clubbing each other senseless in the chaos.

We can thank Mayor Bach for agreeing to support the event in 2013. It’s a move that shows he is both careful of his budget responsibility, and willing to push the evolution of our city. We can only hope that Whitaker is still willing to hang himself out there next year. If not, we’re all doomed. Stockpile the nonperishables and give your neighbor a skeptical sideways glance. Lock the doors and keep the savages at bay.

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