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Ride the Rockies will power through Carbondale this summer

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Ride the Rockies organizers at The Denver Post make a point of never bringing the cycling tour through the same town two years in a row, but that doesn’t mean they’ll never revisit. And this year Carbondale will again — for the third time — host as an official stopping point in the seven-day loop on June 12.

Carbondale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Andrea Stewart couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

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“It’s such an opportunity to showcase our community,” she said, noting that the town will see an influx of more than 2,000 people between riders and support staff. “It’s a huge opportunity for economic development. Our whole point is to be really involved and get them to come and explore, and then come back later: bring their family and stay for the weekend and make it a destination.”

Based on Stewart’s own anecdotal experiences with past Ride the Rockies tours, she’s confident Carbondale will entice future tourism from participants.

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“We’ll have people that have actually come and they’re like, ‘Oh we saw that Carbondale was on, so we’ve made sure we made reservations at Phat Thai.’ It’s great to hear that they’re back, and we will get a lot of people that will call afterwards and they’ll say, ‘Oh, we met at Ride the Rockies,’” she said.

Generating that kind of excitement for the mountain towns that dot the state is exactly what The Denver Post Ride the Rockies Tour Director Deirdre Moynihan aims to accomplish.

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“We’re trying to showcase Colorado: not only the part where you’re biking, but these wonderful communities, so we try to make sure that we’re leaving a positive impact,” she said.

Of course, not all smaller communities have the infrastructure to easily accommodate an extra 2,000 people or so in the middle of June. That’s why Moynihan and her crew are experimenting with a new yurt village concept — so that Ride the Rockies won’t have to necessarily rely on a town’s lodging capacity in order to include it in the tour.

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“They’re kind of like a fancy cot, then there’s dividers, so you have your own little section and it’s climate controlled, and we’ll have kind of luxury restroom trailers,” she said, adding that the yurt is particularly convenient for riders travelling in groups, as each yurt sleeps up to 10 people.

Of course, the camping options participants may remember from 2012 and 2016 will still exist, including “camping” indoors. But the yurt village is intended to offer an option for people who would otherwise likely seek hotel accommodations in towns that don’t have such accommodations.

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“For example, we’re going to Hotchkiss. For people that really want to stay in those hotels, they’ll have to go to Montrose, and I think that’s a haul. And for Buena Vista, they’d have to go to Salida. When you have your bike, you just want to hang out, you don’t want to have to hop on a bus,” she said. “We don’t want to go to your town then ship everyone down the road. We go, we stay in your town because that’s where the economic impact is.”

The Carbondale headquarters for lodging and meals — which local nonprofits and booster clubs typically provide — will be at Roaring Fork High School. The chamber is collaborating closely with the high school, Town of Carbondale and Carbondale Parks and Recreation to make everything come together, including entertainment.

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“It’s so nice, especially with the proximity with all of Carbondale,” Stewart said. “It’s a mile from the high school. So even though they’ve been on their bikes all day, they can walk downtown or ride downtown, get that lactic acid out — because [otherwise] the next day over McClure Pass is not going to feel good!” she laughed.

Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington understands that all too well; he’s participated in Ride the Rockies twice and has helped host at least half a dozen times in Carbondale, Pagosa Springs, Telluride and Cortez.

“It’s really fun to both host and ride (although a full week on a bike can create some sore body parts better left unnamed),” he quipped in an email.

The 445-mile loop from Crested Butte and back again reportedly includes 28,230 feet of elevation gain, but this year is a little more accessible than previous tours, Moynihan noted. This year, Ride the Rockies will include electronic bikes.

“We’re really excited because you know … it’s a pretty aggressive ride. [Ebikes are] the great equalizer for some. It’s really helpful for couples: now they can ride together,” she said. “You’re still working pretty hard; there’s just a little extra caffeine out there.”

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