By all accounts, Aug. 24 could see some of the largest crowds Windsor has ever seen. Ever.
And by all accounts Windsor, Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park, along with dozens of other smaller groups and planning committees, will be looking to break records and bask in the international spotlight when some of the world’s top cyclists compete that weekend in the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge.
Amy Porter, Windsor’s special events coordinator, has been on the forefront of planning the huge event since the early days of last fall, when the bidding process was still in the works. Attracting an internationally-recognized event with Tour de France riders took tons of collaboration after all, but as the smaller pieces came together she said it’s becoming clear that the region stands to shine.
“It’s such a huge endeavor,” Porter said. “All of the big pieces are there. We’re just looking at the final details right now.”
It’s been a whirlwind. Since the bidding process wrapped up and it was announced Windsor along with the rest of the region would be highlighted, everything from hotel accommodations and traffic planning to infrastructure improvements and food options have kept staff and members of the Local Organizing Committee busy.
Those plans to bring 16 teams of cyclists through Stage 6 of the Pro Challenge around northern Colorado get a little more complicated in Windsor’s case.
That Saturday — which is already expected to be one of the most crowded days of the bike tour — coincides with the town’s farmers market at the intersection of 5th and Main Streets. Moreover, a cycling sprint race along Main Street will end at that same intersection, almost certainly packing it with excited people late in the morning.
“It’s going to be a busy morning,” Porter said. “It’s just going to be craziness all over.”
Even though the race will be over within just a few minutes as riders fly by, streets will be packed all day. The race coincides with the second annual Front Range Wine Festival, slated to take over Main Park that afternoon.
Blended together, it’s a unique situation that is creating unique partnerships. A full list of dozens of event sponsors is expected to be released in the coming weeks, and Windsor employees are still working with authorities and race organizers to make sure everyone is on the same page and the event truly shines.
“They really do encourage people to get involved and be up close and personal,” Porter said, adding that parking will be prohibited anywhere along the route but spectators are encouraged to line the streets in droves. “They (organizers) are in every way wanting people to feel like they are a part of this and to be involved and to get excited. Some of these riders are huge.”
Among those in the 16 teams are top-ranked Sky Procycling, which includes the 2012 Tour de France overall winner, Bradley Wiggins, along with second place finisher Chris Froome.
The Downtown Development Authority is also looking to harness the excitement ruminating around town that weekend and the weeks leading up to the big day by showcasing the town’s small businesses. The DDA is encouraging people to shop downtown and is sponsoring Wheels ‘N’ Deals. Community members are encouraged to fill out a DDA stamp card each time they go to a downtown business from Aug. 2 until Aug. 24. Once filled, cards can be dropped off at a collection box at Lil’ Flower Shop and Memory Lane Antiques.
All completed stamp cards will be entered into a drawing for a $1,400 road bike from Spokes, Inc.
“We saw this as a really good opportunity and an opportunity to capture a lot of people outside of Windsor,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kristie Melendez, who also represents the DDA. “Our emphasis is just getting folks downtown and getting them into a variety of retailers.”
A kickoff ride the night before at Boardwalk Park will start off the weekend, and everyone is encouraged to ride their bikes to the event and truly celebrate the emerging cycling culture around town. The American Legion will also hold a pancake breakfast that Saturday morning.
That weekend stands to be something everyone will talk about for years to come, Porter said, and the benefits should far outweigh the costs of staff time and the initial $10,000 the town has put forth.
In 2012, more than 1 million spectators lined the 683-mile course, which challenges riders up numerous mountain passes and meanders through small communities across Colorado.
By playing host, Windsor and northern Colorado will likely reap the benefits of people shopping, eating and staying in the area, contributing to the local economy. But perhaps most importantly, it will put the town front and center in the international spotlight — even if just for a few hours.
“It’s not tangible but it is priceless in it’s own way,” Porter said. “People will hear about us. They’ll know where we are. It’s really going to pique people’s interest, and I think it’s going to draw them here.”