Numbers, comments and mostly praise have been flying around Windsor since the highly-anticipated USA Pro Challenge raced through town, and feedback from across the region seems to show leaders are happy with how the event came together.
The competition Saturday morning brought an estimated 2,500-3,000 people to Windsor’s downtown area, Town Manager Kelly Arnold said. That’s not including the spectators who lined miles of Colo. 392 and residential areas around town to catch a glimpse of some of the world’s top cyclists before they continued through Loveland, Estes Park and Fort Collins.
Arnold said that by staff’s definition, the event was a success. He lauded police and public works crews for handling the few traffic complaints that coincided with road closures, and he said overall the event provided a fun and safe environment for everyone.
“That’s a really loose definition of success, but for us not really knowing what it was going to be and how to define success, that’s kind of how we looked at it,” he said. Similarly, he said he hasn’t heard of any complaints from area businesses.
Bob Winter, president of Windsor’s Downtown Development Authority, echoed those thoughts. He said that it seemed businesses in the downtown district saw a spike in foot traffic in the hours leading up to the peloton coming through. Whether it was a jump in food sales or having folks walk to the fitting room in the back of a clothing boutique to change into a free shirt that was handed out, businesses saw exposure on a level that’s hard to replicate.
“You can’t buy that kind of advertising,” he said.
Perhaps most telling was the sheer number of volunteers who worked along the 115-mile Stage 6. Nearly 900 people from across the state — and some from ever farther away — opted to help with traffic control, crowd management and to just hand out swag. That included a whopping 140 people from Windsor who wanted to help out along the course both at the start and some who moved over to the finish in the afternoon.
“I think Windsor proved that we can be a part of northern Colorado events,” Arnold. “It also proves whether we’re part of northern Colorado or part of Windsor events, I think we as staff and volunteers and community can come together and pull off some pretty fun things in the future.”
Fort Collins also saw success. Massive crowds packed the streets, rooftops and even parking garage balconies near the downtown finish for a chance to catch a photo of the top riders. Plus, crowds crammed along the roads near Horsetooth Reservoir and screamed at riders as they tackled the final climbs of the seven-day tour.
Katy Schneider, director of marketing for Visit Fort Collins, said everyone she has talked to within the Local Organizing Committee — a group of leaders from communities along the route — was pleased with the turnout.
“We’re very satisfied with how everything turned out,” she said. “Really, truly, it was amazing to see our back yard on national TV and people having a good time. The race organizers and other folks I’ve talked to just were really pleased with how many people came out and supported it.”
Over the next several weeks, organizers will continue the debriefing period and determine what worked best and what could be improved upon if the event ever makes a return to the region. It’s too early to tell exactly where the 2014 route will go, but the bidding process begins later this year, giving organizers a slight reprieve back to “normal” operations and a chance to see how similar large-scale events could come together in the future.
“We didn’t really have expectations for attendance,” Schneider said. “The real value in this is the exposure we got. From the LOC perspective, we were very pleased.”