VAIL — Tara Picklo was expecting a big crowd for the Vail leg of the USA Pro Challenge cycling race. She got more than she expected.
“It was our biggest day ever — bigger than the Fourth of July,” said Picklo, the co-owner of the Yeti’s Grind coffee shop. Yeti’s had an advantage for the Vail Pass time trial, since the shop was in the starting area. It also helps that coffee and cycling are a good combination — good enough that Picklo’s husband, Nate, has started a cycle-customizing business.
“We were busy all day,” Picklo said. “We had everybody working.”
While the crowds were biggest in Vail Village, there were thousands of people along the 10-mile time trial route. The Vail Valley Foundation, which helped bring the cycling tour to Vail and Beaver Creek, estimated the Vail crowd at about 25,000. That’s a lot of people, but John Dakin, Vail Valley Foundation vice president of communications, said the crowd might have been a bit smaller than the one at the event’s last time trial on Vail Pass, which was in 2011.
Still, Dakin said lodging occupancy ran more than 90 percent for Aug. 22 — the night between the Beaver Creek stage finish and the Vail event. That’s a big boost compared to a similar summer night with school back in session.
That means the events did exactly what they were supposed to do — bring people to the valley.
“It was just a huge home run,” Dakin said.
This year’s event also boasted higher TV ratings, and the races were shown in 200 countries around the world. That means exposure. In Vail, it meant that about every two minutes, a rider jumped out of a start gate with Vail’s logo on it.
The stages here also mostly decided the event, giving viewers even more reason to pay attention.
All of that means Picklo hopes for more racing in coming years.
“It was cool to see (the race) back in Vail,” she said. “We want it back here.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 and firstname.lastname@example.org.