Volunteers essential to USA Pro Challenge in Aspen

Aug 19, 2015

Don Child and Richard Stoll volunteered as race marshals for the USA Pro Challenge in Aspen Wednesday.
Credit Marci Krivonen

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge brings to Aspen not just professional cyclists, but visitors, vendors and infrastructure. To put on the event that spans two days, the City of Aspen relies heavily on volunteers. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Volunteers trickle into headquarters in downtown Aspen early Wednesday. At the registration table, they grab lanyards and get directions.

"It’s slow and steady right now, but everyone’s excited and it’s good," says Beth Hansen.

She normally works in a city office but today she’s checking in volunteers. City employees like her make up about half of the volunteer effort for the Pro Cycling Challenge. Maddy Overton is the Volunteer Coordinator for the event.

A group of volunteers gets a safety briefing Wednesday morning.
Credit Marci Krivonen

"City Hall is closed," she says. "So they offered to have city staff volunteer and get their hours converted into a day’s work so they don’t lose that time."

So, technically, some people are getting paid. Others, like Don Child, won’t get a paycheck.

"I volunteered for this race a couple of years ago and I’ve volunteered for other races. I just enjoy being around bicyclists and watching," he says.

He grew up in Aspen but lives in Hawaii. Today he’s a course marshal. He’ll be stationed east of Aspen, along the race course.

"For the most part it’s just sitting there being very bored until, for about ten seconds while the riders are going past you, you’re very busy (laughs)!"

There’s a variety of volunteer jobs, from collecting trash to answering questions from the public. But Volunteer Coordinator Maddy Overton says course marshaling is the most important and hardest job to fill.

"You’re out there for awhile. You’re working with people on foot, on bike, or in a car who maybe aren’t excited about having to be detoured or delayed. They’re the people who facilitate everyone getting into town, and the riders getting into town without any accidents or issues.”

Across town a group of Aspen students is getting prepped ahead of their volunteer gig at Paepcke Park.

They will help people in the park sort their trash into different bins for compostable items and recyclables. The students are athletes - on the football, volleyball, softball and cross-country teams. Ron Morehead is coordinating this effort.

"They’ve come out after training," he says. "They don’t start school until next week but they started this week doing their preseason training."

Reporter: "So is this volunteer gig part of their athletic training?"

Ron: "Yes. We try and promote volunteerism in this town, it’s part of our culture. The earlier you get them going, the easier it is for them to continue that."

Adair Pattillo and Nina Beidleman are on the cross-country team. They are working together at a trash station.

Patillo: "I really love this event. I’ve been following the race for awhile, so it’s awesome to be a part of the race and volunteer and help out."

Nina: “I really like watching the bike racers go by. My dad always talks about it, so it’s super cool to help out and be a part of it.”

While there’s plenty of free labor, the event itself costs the City of Aspen money. This year, town government threw down $125,000 as a subsidy. It’s worthwhile, city officials say, because it gives the resort town international exposure. And, it may make a return. Mayor Steve Skadron was on stage at the end of Wednesday’s race.

Announcer: "Well, mayor, five years with the USA Pro Challenge, what do you think about a sixth year to bring the race back to town?"

Skadron: "If the locals want it, we’ll get it done, so thank you everybody.”

On Thursday, the cyclists will take off from downtown, headed to Breckenridge.