Friday, July 13, 2012

Cycling races pump bucks into valley

1,200 contestants, 5,000 spectators set event record

Express Staff Writer

Last week's USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships injected Ketchum and Sun Valley with nail-biting excitement, competitive spirit and much needed commerce.

The national title-determining races took place from July 5-8, preceded by the Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival—a fun series of races, rides, and events for local velophiles—from June 30 to July 4.

"Cycle USA was a great success," Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe said during a Sun Valley City Council meeting Monday. The 1,200 contestants set a record for Cycle USA. The total number of people coming to town were 5,000 or more. It brought a significant economic impetus to the whole valley."

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall was equally pleased with the number of visitors in town.

"I love having to sit in traffic again," Hall said during a Ketchum City Council meeting July 2. "Everyone's driving around with wallets in their pockets!"

Though the community as a whole seemed to really get into having the bike nationals in town, the biggest beneficiaries of the multi-day event were the valley's businesses.

Bob Gordon, owner of Formula Sports in Ketchum, called the effect that the races had on his business "very positive."

"Great energy," he said. "We did have more business because of it. I'd like to see these kinds of things continue, big sporting events. It's definitely a good thing."

He did have one criticism of the event—that its scheduling fell right between the Fourth of July and the annual Allen & Co. conference.

"I would have liked it to be later in July, not right on the Fourth," he said. "Spreading it out a little would have been good. But no matter what, any event is better than none."

Mark Deffe, owner of Sun Summit Ski & Cycle in Ketchum, said his business started to pick up a couple of weeks before the starting guns went off.

"Contestants showed up earlier to train this year, which they said they would last year," he said.

However, it's not just the early birds who filled up the town. It seems the valley will play host to cyclists all summer long.

"Many customers have told me that they have canceled biking trips to other locations such as Jackson Hole and Crested Butte in order to extend their stay in Sun Valley," Deffe said. "Some riders who can't hang around plan to return as soon as possible."

Bike mechanics at Sturtevants Mountain Outfitters collectively told the Express that they were very busy.

"Crazy pandemonium in the best way," Chris Rybak said.

The team at Formula Sports said they were swamped.

"Maybe slammed is a better word," said Justin Landers. "Where we saw an unexpected spike in business was the spectators wanting to rent bikes."

The event, it seems, and its Sun Valley backdrop, was enough to inspire local and visiting riders of all ages and abilities to get out and do some single-tracking.

"Wow! Again," Nappy Neaman, a salesman at the Elephant's Perch in Ketchum, said in reference to the bike nationals' return to the valley.

Neaman said a customer mentioned that since the event will be in Lehigh Valley, Pa., for the next two years, he "decided to go this year instead, to Sun Valley."

Andy Berman, owner of PK's in Ketchum, had a slightly different perspective.

"We're totally psyched to have the [nationals]. That being said, I don't feel like the event had much impact in our bike sales or tuning. We did sell a lot of T-shirts to spectators. We also had a good blip in bike rentals and spare tube and C02 cartridge sales."

Beyond the contestants themselves, the national championships attract the contestants' families, friends and other spectators.

"The whole family is here for the races, giving business to the local merchants," said Kay Greaser, a Sturtevants customer and mother of USA Cycling racer (and recent local) Jena Greaser. "We've been cooking for everybody; the markets have definitely benefited. Now that our daughter has moved here full-time, a decision she made after last year's nationals, we want to support local business. I bought hiking boots today. The coffee shops, every business is benefiting."

The buzz on biking in the Wood River Valley is certainly out of the bag. Since the valley hosted its first bike nationals last summer, and thanks largely to the efforts of Greg Randolph, former U.S. Olympic cyclist and current public relations director for the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, the Sun Valley area has successfully branded itself as one of the top biking destinations in the country.

"It's a wonderful event for the whole community," said Jack Sibbach, director of marketing and public relations for Sun Valley Co. "The Marketing Alliance did a fantastic job with it, especially Greg Randolph. Our mountain department did a lot of great work, too. I've heard nothing but positive feedback."

Arlene Schieven, president of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, told the Ketchum City Council at its meeting Monday that the national championships were "the biggest nationals ever."

"PR interest far exceeded our goals and expectations," Schieven said.

For the next two years, Sun Valley will host the Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships, so not all of the boost the cross-country races provided will be lost.

Brennan Rego:

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