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Colorado gears up for big bike race



MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. - It's anybody's guess just how many people the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will be drawn to the ski towns of Colorado. The itinerary starts in Colorado Springs, ends in Denver, but will tag Salida, Crested Butte, Aspen, Vail, Avon and Steamboat Springs along the way while passing through a passel of others.

Staging this tour is quite expensive for ski towns. Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte together pitched in $40,000 in cash, plus staffing time, while the ski area operator, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, put in hotel rooms and food.

In Aspen, as of mid-July, bookings for rooms during for the two days most directly impacted by the event stood at about 42 per cent. That's up considerably from last year. However, a "very significant chunk" of the increase is due to the free and reduced price rooms hoteliers are giving race personnel, said Bill Tomcich, who directs Stay Aspen Snowmass, the central reservations agency.

No doubt, bookings will pick up as the race week approaches. Also helping will be confirmation that the top Tour de France finishers will also race in Colorado. The Denver Post reports that this year's Tour winner, Cadel Evans of Australia, has now confirmed.


Armstrong grilled in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. - Bicycling legend Lance Armstrong got a standing ovation after being grilled at a session in Aspen last week. Some of the questions were marshmallows, such as how long it took him to hike a local trail. He responded that he had climbed Aspen Mountain in 43 minutes, 40 seconds - provoking applause.

But there were more probing questions, too, according to accounts in the local newspapers. His principal griller was Walter Isaacson, the former chief executive of CNN and the managing editor of Time .

Now director of the Aspen Institute, the sponsor of the session, Isaacson asked Armstrong the status of the federal grand jury investigation into allegations that he had used drugs while competing in the Tour de France. "I don't know exactly," said Armstrong. "I only know what I read in the paper."

When Isaacson asked whether Armstrong had received a letter from the federal government saying that he is a target in the investigation, Armstrong said absolutely not. " The New York Times lands on my doorstep every morning. So if that counts as a letter, then yes."

According to an account in the Aspen Daily News , Armstrong pointed out that the alleged doping with which the U.S. government takes issue was based on cycling practices nine to 12 years ago in France.