State leaders, feds at odds over cycling race venue

By David O. Williams
Real AspenFebruary 16, 2011
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall sent a letter to the National Park Service this week asking the federal agency to reconsider its rejection of the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction as a stage venue for this summer’s Quiznos Pro Challenge cycling race.
Gov. Hickenlooper



The 600-mile stage race is the brainchild of cycling legend Lance Armstrong and former Gov. Bill Ritter. Armstrong Tuesday officially retired from professional cycling even as he continues to deal with an ongoing doping investigation looking into the past behavior of the seven-time Tour de France winner. Armstrong has a home in Aspen and strong ties to Colorado.

Set for August of this year, the race will feature some of the stages made famous by the Coors Classic in 1980s. It will start in Colorado Springs and travel through Crested Butte, Aspen, Vail, Steamboat and Breckenridge before concluding in Denver. But organizers wanted to include the famed “Tour of the Moon” stage through the red sandstone formations of the Colorado National Monument.

John Wessels, regional director of the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service, rejected that application. Udall and Hickenlooper argue the race stage would be a much-needed economic boost for the Grand Junction-Fruita area at the base of the monument and would bring attention to the push to make the monument a full-fledge national park.

“If the monument is able to responsibly host the event while protecting its natural and cultural resources, we believe that showcasing this majestic area as part of this world-class cycling event will bring beneficial commerce and attention to this important part of the state,” Udall and Hickenlooper wrote. “In addition, by hosting this event Colorado can significantly add to the stature and profile of the effort to designate the Monument as a National Park – while illustrating that Coloradans can effectively balance the often competing interests of use and protection.”

Udall and Hickenlooper are asking Wessels to convene a meeting to reconsider (see full text of letter below).

Lance Armstrong

Armstrong, meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, said this is definitely it for his storied career. The 39-year-old Texan went from cancer survivor to international icon in the 1990s when he started racking up Tour de France victories. Since then, his Livestrong Foundation has raised more than $400 million for cancer research.

According to the AP, Armstrong recently lobbied hard and successfully for a constitutional amendment in Texas to provide $3 billion for cancer research over the next 10 years and is now working with California legislators to draft a ballot a measure for a cigarette tax to fund cancer research.

In Tuesday’s interview, Armstrong rejected the notion of getting into politics now that he’s finally done with racing. But he didn’t completely put the idea to rest.

“I don't think so. I get asked that question a lot. It's a job. It's probably many times a thankless job. ... If I were to run for any kind of office, it's impossible or very difficult to run right down the middle," he said.

"I would have to immediately alienate half of our constituents: 'Wait a minute, we thought this guy was a Republican. Wait a minute, we thought he was a Democrat.' I think the effect there would be a negative effect for the foundation. For now, absolutely not on my radar.”

Here’s the full text of the Udall, Hickenlooper letter:

Dear Mr. Wessels:

We are writing to request that your office convene a meeting regarding the revised proposal submitted by the Grand Junction Quiznos Pro Challenge Local Organizing Committee (Committee) to stage a portion of the Quiznos Pro Challenge cycling race through Colorado National Monument (Monument).

We understand that the Committee’s initial proposal to host the bike race at the Monument was rejected, but – based on the issues and concerns raised by Superintendent Joan Anzelmo regarding the initial draft – the Committee has since offered a revised proposal. We are requesting that you convene a meeting with representatives of the Committee and Superintendent Anzelmo to reach agreement on the proposed event.

If the Monument is able to responsibly host the event while protecting its natural and cultural resources, we believe that showcasing this majestic area as part of this world-class cycling event will bring beneficial commerce and attention to this important part of the state. In addition, by hosting this event Colorado can significantly add to the stature and profile of the effort to designate the Monument as a National Park – while illustrating that Coloradans can effectively balance the often competing interests of use and protection.

We will make our staff available to participate in this meeting if needed and look forward to helping reach a resolution that is beneficial to all involved.

Sincerely,

John Hickenlooper, Governor

Mark Udall, U.S. Senator


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