Vail lodging up for USA Pro Challenge
EAGLE COUNTY — July booking numbers are in, and already local hotels are seeing a double-digit percentage increase over last year’s numbers during the USA Pro Challenge.
That’s according to information released Monday from the Vail Valley Partnership, the group tasked with assembling the local lodging puzzle which will provide accommodation for the hundreds of cyclists, staff and media representatives who will be in town for the country’s biggest pro cycling race next week.
It takes the partnership about 10 days to get the previous month’s numbers, says Chris Romer, the Vail Valley Partnership’s CEO. That means those numbers, while already up over last year, are only a reflection of bookings made as of July 31.
“We’ve had two booking weeks since then, and I know that the marketing efforts have really ramped up, both our efforts through Beaver Creek and Vail as well as the cycling tour itself,” Romer said Monday. “We’ll be looking at pretty solid occupancies for that time, certainly double digits over the same week last year already. And that’s a good sign.”
‘Whole moving entourage’ staying 2 nights
The race will see two of its seven stages take place in the Vail Valley, with the Aug. 22 fourth stage starting in Steamboat and finishing in Beaver Creek, and Friday’s fifth stage finishing and ending in Vail.
Stage six will begin early the next morning approximately three hours away by car in Loveland, which means for many fans following the race, a Thursday stay in the Vail Valley is mandatory, but not necessarily Friday.
“We see a last minute crowd for everything,” said Romer. “But so far we are seeing higher numbers for Thursday than Friday.”
Regardless, race CEO Shawn Hunter says his “whole moving entourage” of athletes, media and staff will spend both Thursday and Friday nights in the Vail Valley.
“The folks that travel in from abroad and around the country just rave about the accommodations and how well they’re treated,” he said. “There’s no other race like it in the world, where the accommodations and the people are so friendly.”
Queen stage excitement
Hunter, himself a Vail homeowner, says he was glad to see the return of the stage-five Vail Time Trial this year, which was a popular event in 2011 but forgone in 2012 for a time trial closer to the state capital. He said the Vail Time Trial will continue to be, at very least, an every-other-year event.
With it being an on year for that event – a difficult climb up Vail Pass which will take riders about 1,700 feet up in elevation gain – Romer says lodging numbers are seeing a positive reflection from the return of Vail Time Trial this year.
“Part of it is because of the Time Trial, for sure,” said Romer. “But the other component is that with Vail and Beaver Creek on back-to-back days, you can come up and stay and catch two stages of the event in the same location, which has a lot of appeal to fans.”
Hunter says in terms of fan appeal, while the Time Trial is nothing to sneeze at, the Beaver Creek stage is going to be something special.
“This year the Queen Stage is from Steamboat to Beaver Creek,” he said.
In cycling, a “Queen Stage” is generally the most difficult or the stage that reaches the highest point.
“It’s something we’re excited about because it’s going to be very challenging for the riders, and great for the fans,” said Hunter. “There should be some big crowds not only at the finish but along the way, incorporating Bachelor’s Gulch should make it fun.”
Staff Writer John LaConte can be reached at 970-748-2988 or firstname.lastname@example.org