TELLURIDE, Colo. (CBS4) – The first stage of the USA Pro Challenge is in the books. The 700-mile race across Colorado started in Durango Monday morning and took the riders to Telluride.
Organizers say the race is already bringing a lot of visitors to the state and somewhere close to one million people are expected to watch.
One couple from Castle Rock said they are planning to follow the race all week. But some business owners say the large crowds didn’t directly mean good business.
For Pam De Jong, her day started around dawn, planning to get the perfect seat near the finish.
“We didn’t have to be here that early, the next people next to us were here about 8 a.m.,” De Jong said. ‘They’ll be sprinting right past here, so we’ve got our cowbells ready.”
With about an hour left before the finish, a grassy park near the finish line with the race on a large TV was fairly vacant.
“It’s actually a little disappointing. I was expecting more people to be here,” a spectator said.
Nearby at a bike shop, oddly, not too many people had stopped in Monday.
“For local businesses it’s really been a bit of a mystery. We haven’t known what to expect. We did call around to some local shops that had the Pro Cycling Tour come through last year and they actually let us know it was the slowest day of their year,” Summer Colt with Telluride Life Cycles said.
Another business owner said it was the slowest day of the year for her. But the restaurants and hotels said Monday was something to cheer about.
“Probably 5,000 to 8,000 people, I would guess. Hotels are full, restaurants are packed, so it’s been great,” Ray Farnsworth with the New Sheridan Hotel said.
Many say it’s the worldwide TV exposure that will have the longest lasting economic impact.
“This is an incredible feather in our cap as a state to get the world to see Colorado,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said.
“Telluride lives for these types of activities,” Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser said.
Fraser said it is the biggest event he’s seen hosted in town.
“It’s extremely important for our economy. It is very important for the state of Colorado and the town of Telluride,” he said.
Telluride was a part of the state that got left out of having a stage last year.