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National bicycle race and ride puts 500 cyclists on Gilpin highways and back roads

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Gap, Crawford Gulch and Mountain Base Roads, Highways 119, 46 and 72, among others

By Lynn Volkens

  June 23, 2013 is the date set for a long distance bicycle ride which will pass through and around parts of Gilpin County. The Golden Gran Fondo is part of the Gran Fondo National Champion Series which will start and finish in downtown Golden. The event is mainly a long-distance ride with multiple routes of varying distances. Some portions of those routes are timed as in a race. Event coordinator, Martin Quinn operates Golden Bike Tours in Golden. He and the national event director, Reuben Kline, provided details of the ride for Gilpin County Commissioners on February 26, 2013. The event is expected to draw 500-600 cyclists: Kline said 600 spots would be offered but with no-shows, the actual attendance was expected to be closer to 500. With a start time of 8:00 a.m. the riders will depart Golden on one of three routes and are expected to be back in Golden by 4:30 p.m. The routes through Gilpin encompass Highways 119, 46 and 72 with a loop up Crawford Gulch and through Golden Gate State Park including Mountain Base and Gap Roads. Routes will be marked with spray chalk, a product that generally dissolves within a month or two.

Commissioners expressed safety concerns and the lack of any benefit to Gilpin County, even though much of the 60-mile and 90-mile routes are through Gilpin. Noting that, Commissioner Connie McLain asked why Gilpin Commissioners weren’t first at the table in planning the event. Event organizers admitted they had already spoken to officials of the City of Golden, Golden Gate State Park, Jefferson and Boulder Counties, Gilpin Sheriff and local fire departments (still listed as High Country and Colorado Sierra in their event packet), before coming to Gilpin’s Commissioners. All of the other agencies had already approved the event, Kline said. Gilpin Ambulance Director Zane Laubhan confirmed that the group had not spoken to anyone from the ambulance service. Specific concerns were for ambulance services since a cyclist accident could take one of Gilpin’s three on-duty ambulances out of service to local residents for several hours. Commissioner Gail Watson informed Kline and Quinn that calling “911” for all medical, ambulance or fire emergencies, as recommended to riders in the informational packet, will not work on many parts of the route as there is no cell service in those areas. She wanted assurances that there would be adequate support vehicles (two roving and one following the last rider, Kline said) plus adequate emergency communication capabilities. Kline said there would be about 20 volunteers along the routes, at intersections, and timing stations who will have two-way radios.  He added that in the four Gran Fondos that he had organized, there had never been an accident requiring an ambulance, and then offered that the group would contract for additional ambulance services if necessary. He also offered to make a donation (amount unknown) to the local fire department to staff the stations during the event.

Gilpin County Sheriff Bruce Hartman said that he expected extra deputies would be needed to patrol during the event, and that it might be good to have extra help in Dispatch. As with Commissioners, his concerns were for safety, mainly on Highways 46 and 72. “Obviously those are very dangerous roads for cyclists,” he said. Kline said they would cover the cost of overtime expense for the extra law enforcement help. Colorado State Patrol plans to cover the event as well. Public Works Director Curt Logsdon expressed safety concerns about cyclists on Gap Road, which carries a traffic load of 750 cars per day. Work on I-70 at the time of the event may increase traffic on all alternate routes into and through Gilpin County, Commissioner McLain pointed out –another safety concern. Kline said there would seldom be groups of riders altogether; more likely there will be single file riders or maybe two abreast. He described the busiest spot along the ride would be the intersection of Gap Road and Highway 119, where the 91-mile loop riders would head north and the 63-mile loop riders would head south.

The Golden Gran Fondo promotional material states that organizers “want to promote and grow recreational activity in the area through the safe coordination of a cycling event: and bills this ride as “a great opportunity to highlight the Golden, Colorado area as a beautiful recreation destination.” The event is a fund-raiser for Bicycle Colorado, the bicycle lobbyist group that recently won a Supreme Court ruling overturning the bicycle ban in Black Hawk. (The route of this event does not pass through Black Hawk.) It is expected to raise approximately $1,000 for Bicycle Colorado.

Kline and Quinn acknowledged that the event would have little benefit to Gilpin. They offered to promote Gilpin County if Commissioners could make some suggestions for how to do it, and also asked for suggestions for a non-profit youth group to which they could make a contribution, maybe as much as $1,000, they speculated, depending on how the event does financially. There is nothing Gilpin Commissioners can do to prevent the organizers from using Gilpin’s back roads and highways for their event, but Kline contended that they would prefer to have Gilpin County’s support. As they plan to have the event annually, they could consider using a location in Gilpin County as a future start/finish for the event, thus providing some financial benefit to local businesses, Kline offered. “We can cautiously give you some support,” Commissioner Bruce Schmalz said.

To see maps of the Gilpin County routes, locations of timed sections of the event, aid station positions, etc. please visit http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2088719 for the 91-mile ride and http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2147005 for the 63-mile ride. The 20-mile loop does not go through Gilpin County.

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