EAGLE COUNTY - People who live in the Vail Valley understand why bicycles are nearly as common as skis and snowboards. Thanks to an increasing number of events focused on cycling, the valley's reputation as a hotbed of the sport is starting to grow.
Last year's USA Pro Cycling Challenge brought thousands of spectators to the valley to see some of the world's top bicycle racers. During a time trial up Vail Pass, the bike path was jammed with people.
"How do you think they got there? We all rode," Vail resident Steve Virostek said.
Virostek said cycling events are a way for everyday riders to "legitimize" their own passion for the sport.
"It's something we spend a lot of time doing," he said. "To see someone doing it at another level ... you feel, in a small way, you could be doing that."
Having televised events like the Pro Cycling Challenge is a good way to show off the valley to people who might not have thought about bringing a bike to the Vail Valley.
"You'll watch the Tour de France and say 'I want to go there,'" Colorado Bike Service owner Jeff Mohrman said.
Mohrman believes just about any exposure the valley can get about cycling is a good thing, but he acknowledged that he doesn't expect a big bump in business. The pro racers have their own support teams, and even people coming for events like the Aug. 19 "Gran Fondo" ride will probably come pretty well equipped.
While big events such as the Colorado River Ride are popular with local residents, the Gran Fondo - Italian for "big ride," is an attempt to draw destination guests for a day of cycling and food. The event has been going on for some time in Europe and some U.S. resorts, but Vail will see its first big ride Aug. 19.
"It's an outlet to see how the work you've put in has paid off," Virostek said.
Races and rides draw paying customers, too.
Virostek is a co-founder of Triumph Development, a company that also has a property-rental arm. He said the company sees a bump in reservations any time there's a cycling event in or near Vail.
Riding a bike down a mountain path has also drawn the attention of Glenwood Springs-based Colorado Adventure Center. That company is in its first year of leading tours down the Vail Pass bike path. People who rent bikes in the morning can be hauled up the pass, zip down, then ride around Vail for the rest of the day.
Caitlin McGowan, who's running the business out of the Double Diamond Ski Shop this summer, said she's seen both her own business, as well as the ski shop's rental business, bustling this summer.
"We've both been selling out (of rentals) a lot of days," McGowan said.
Cycling's allure has caught the attention of the Vail Local Marketing District, which coordinates non-winter marketing for the town. Mia Vlaar, a member of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, said that group has taken notice of cycling's impact, and will probably put some effort into boosting next year's events.
"It's development has really been organic," Vlaar said. "We're following that development."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.