By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
A big chunk of Carbondale turns into a “can’t get there from here” kind of place when the 550-mile USA Pro Challenge professional bicycle race blows through town on its way from Aspen to Crested Butte on Aug. 19.
Due to the course layout and safety concerns, residents and others south of Main Street to Snowmass Drive/Highway 133, and between Sopris Park/Weant Boulevard and Snowmass Drive, will not be allowed to cross those streets while the race rolls through town, according to the Colorado State Patrol and town officials.
Colorado State Patrol Cpt. Richard Duran said those streets will be on “lock down” for anywhere from five to 30 minutes during the race. “Nobody crosses the road,” he told a briefing of town staffers on Monday.
Residents in the part of Carbondale mentioned above cannot escape town via Snowmass Drive, because County Road 100 will be closed when racers enter it from Highway 82, and can’t get from Snowmass Drive to Highway 133 because the highway will be closed at that intersection.
Town manager Jay Harrington told The Sopris Sun the town has notified residents along the course about road closures on Aug. 19. Other residents received notification of the race and road closures in their water bills. Pitkin County has also contacted residents up the Crystal that Highway 133 will be closed in both directions for a period of time on Aug. 19.
What this means for those folks, is that they will not be able to enter Carbondale on Highway 133 from about noon to about 2 or 3 p.m. McClure Pass will be closed in both directions from 1 to 3 p.m., according to race officials.
The USA Pro Challenge starts in Aspen on Aug. 18, with subsequent stops in Crested Butte, Gunnison, Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Breckenridge, Vail and Boulder, before wrapping up in Denver on Aug. 24.
The race is attracting some of the best professional racers in the world, and is the top bicycle race in the U.S., according to observers. Approximately 128 racers will pedal through Carbondale. The race will be broadcast worldwide.
Monday at town hall, Duran said the race “caravan” will enter Main Street from County Road 100 at about noon. Spectators along the course will know the racers are approaching because a Colorado State Patrol Dodge Charger will lead the caravan into town. Then come other CSP vehicles, the racers themselves and support vehicles. The caravan’s last vehicle will be a CSP Tahoe SUV. When the last CSP vehicle passes, the streets will be re-opened.
The course runs west on Main Street to Seventh Street, south one block to Euclid, east on Euclid for one block to Weant, then south on to Highway 133, where it continues past the fire station and on up the Crystal.
The stretch from Snowmass Drive/Main Street to Weant/
Highway 133 is about a mile, and the racers will be traveling 30-40 miles per hour. Duran said the amount of time it takes the entire caravan to snake its way through town depends on whether the peloton enters town together (which would make for a five minute visit), or whether a break away occurs somewhere upvalley and the pack is strung out.
Getting back to those roads, Harrington said Main Street will be closed to vehicular traffic from Third Street to Weant Boulevard at 10 a.m., with the balance of the streets in the course closing at noon, depending on when the racers will enter. Parked cars must be off the course by 6 a.m. During the race, pedestrians will be able to cross Main Street west of Seventh Street.
Back out on County Road 100, Duran said that as the race approaches Carbondale, two CSP troopers will stop east bound traffic on Highway 82. A trooper and Garfield County staffers will be stationed at roads that intersect County Road 100 to prevent anyone from leaving. Traffic heading south from Missouri Heights will be allowed to turn west onto Highway 82.
Duran said that on Highway 133, racers should arrive at Redstone at about 1:10 p.m., plus or minus 20 minutes. At total of about 17 volunteers, Pitkin County employees and CSP troopers will be stationed at roads and sub-division entrances from Prince Creek to County Road 3.
In town, the race is being staffed by a total of 75 volunteers, said Carbondale Chamber of Commerce Director Andrea Stewart. Of that total, there are seven police officers and 30 other town employees at about 30 locations along the course, according to a town memo.
Also next Tuesday, the Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring other activities, including:
• A downtown farmer’s market at 10 a.m.;
• Chalk artists are invited to get down to it at 10 a.m.;
• Live music with Mike Waters at 10:45 a.m.;
• Live painting Marcel Kahhak downtown at noon.