Triangle reaffirms what Colorado Springs needs

Another August, another Copper Triangle, and another couple of weeks of being broke.

We left Colorado Springs last Friday afternoon for Copper Mountain, stayed in a pleasant studio at Copper Mountain Resort on Friday and Saturday nights, and came back Sunday afternoon.

The bike ride was wonderful, as always. What’s not to like about an 80-miler through some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenery, other than laboring up multiple mountain passes and shivering uncontrollably while descending Fremont Pass in 34-degree temperatures?

Here’s a riding tip you may not find elsewhere: If you shiver, your bike will shimmy, making fast descents so scary that you yearn to climb — until the climbing starts again.

And while it’s a fun ride, it’s an expensive one. Including my entry fee, hotel room charges, gas, food and alcohol-based social lubricants, we spent more than $700. That, I ruefully calculated on Sunday night, would be about half the price of a sorely needed new road bike.

Yeah, I know. I could have done the Elephant Rock century in June, an event that starts and finishes in Castle Rock. Minimal travel time, no hotel to pay for. But why shouldn’t we have our own comparable ride in Colorado Springs?

Cycling, like running, is a participatory sport. It’ll be fun to watch the otherworldly athletes who compete in the USA Pro Challenge whiz past in a couple of weeks, but it won’t be memorable. We remember what we do, not what we see. I remember every goal I scored playing soccer in high school long ago (and you’re right, there weren’t many!), but I only remember one or two of John Elway’s many touchdowns.

Given the success of city-themed bike events such as El Tour de Tucson, and given our oft-stated goal to be known as the “Amateur Sports Capital of the United States,” why are we so fond of spectator sports?

I suspect that it has a lot to do with our history.

Since this city was founded in 1871, Colorado Springs has been a tourist town. We figured out that tourists wanted safe, controlled and easy things to do, so we gave them what they wanted.

 It’ll be fun to watch the otherworldly athletes who compete in the USA Pro Challenge whiz past in a couple of weeks, but it won’t be memorable.

We built a road and a railway to the top of Pikes Peak so no one would have to climb the mountain. We transported Anasazi ruins from the wilds of Mesa Verde to the hills above Manitou Springs. We transformed a dank, inaccessible cave into a family-friendly tourist attraction and monetized a waterfall at the head of South Cheyenne Cañon.

Recalling the Colorado Springs of the 1950s, local businessman Chuck Murphy once said, “We lived off the tourists in the summer, and we lived off each other the rest of the year.”

We were the stagehands, the set decorators. Our job was to entertain, to amuse, to pull in the crowds — and make a few bucks in the process. We saw everything through an economic lens; how can we make money out of this?

We decided to pretend that we were a real Western town instead of a snobby little place founded by effete Easterners, so we started a rodeo.

We cluttered up the Garden of the Gods with souvenir shops, parking lots and paved roads — you can’t expect tourists to walk, can you?

We’ve even managed to transform local participatory activities into tourist attractions.

Want to hike the Manitou Incline? Get in line.

Want to run in the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon just because you live here? Sorry, you have to have a qualifying time — that maximizes participation by out-of-towners, and by extension the race’s economic impact.

We haven’t changed. We don’t consider what we want, but what visitors want.

That’s why city elected leaders gave the USA Pro Challenge $150,000 in tax dollars, and yet they have given the cold shoulder to interested promoters of a “Tour of Colorado Springs.”

But I suspect that most locals don’t care about the tourist attractions, even if they swallow the eco-devo rationale for funding such things.

They want things to do, not things to view. How many times have you heard this complaint: “There’s nothing to do here!”

So c’mon, Colorado Springs! Support a real city bike tour, with options to go 100, 65 or 35 miles. Start and finish downtown, with routes through our wonderful neighborhoods, along our trails, through the historic Westside and definitely through the Garden of the Gods.

They’re our roads, aren’t they?