EAGLE COUNTY - The gaping hole near the top of Tennessee Pass may force changes to one of the state's newest events.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is set to run its fourth stage from Aspen to Beaver Creek Aug. 23. The route includes Independence Pass, Battle Mountain, and, yes, Tennessee Pass.
But Tennessee Pass is closed indefinitely due to the hole - caused by a century-old collapsed railroad tunnel under the pass - and all traffic is being re-routed to State Highway 91 over Fremont Pass.
Adam Lueck of the Vail Valley Foundation - the local Cycling Challenge organizing group - said race organizers and Colorado Department of Transportation officials are set to meet Friday to talk about options.
Those options could include a fix to the highway, a temporary fix that would allow the race to go through the area, or, perhaps, re-routing the race stage.
Last year's Cycling Challenge, the inaugural race, featured a Vail time trial. Vail was left out of the event this year, though, even though race organizers called it one of the iconic stages last year and said it would likely be one of the stages that would return year after year.
Avon also hosted a start last year for the Avon to Steamboat stage - both of those cities are not included in this year's race, either.
Race organizers announced the returning teams Wednesday, which include riders like reigning Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, and American star and inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge winner Levi Leipheimer. This year's race includes six UCI ProTour teams - the highest level of professional cycling teams.
With more than 1 million spectators in the books from the inaugural event and even more expected this year, there's a lot of interest in whether a re-route would occur.
"We just don't know yet what might happen," Lueck said. "I'm real curious to learn more."
Last year, spectators slept in cars and tents on the sides of roads just to get a glimpse of the fastest cyclists in the world. Like the Tour de France, fans in Vail ran up Vail Pass alongside the cyclists, shouting, cheering and donning ridiculous costumes.
In Vail alone, town officials estimated that 27,000 spectators watched the race in town, including 7,500 packing the last kilometer of the course.