Mix of emotions and weather blow through Colorado Springs with the Colorado Classic

The race spanned from downtown to Old Colorado City and through Garden of the Gods. Women racers in the morning and men in the afternoon looped between the districts throughout the day, and a mix of emotions and weather followed.

"So far it’s been great," Jim Brown said Thursday afternoon, watching the men’s race from Tejon Street’s sidewalk with his dog, Bailey. "There’s been a pretty good crowd."

After a few brief downpours, Brown remained dry and in good spirits, having sat beneath a business awning. He said he came from Bethany, Okla., to watch the race and follows many cycling races around the country.

But while thousands of people might have flocked downtown to watch the race, few made their way into the businesses there, many merchants said.

"You look out here and say, ‘Why are we even closed down?’ I don’t get it," said Julie Naye, owner of the Redoux Consignment Boutique, 119 E. Bijou St., of her block. "This is our livelihood. All of us. And I don’t think anybody’s had any customers."

Maybe one or two. About 3:30 p.m., Naye said, she rang up her first sale in what otherwise would have been her first "zero day" in months. Since morning, perhaps three people visited the business.

"Most of my customers are destination customers who are going shopping for clothes, furniture, art or whatever," she said. But the many downtown street closures daunted drivers. If they did successfully navigate the maze of closures, they still had a difficult time parking, she said.

"This kills businesses," Naye said.

Lauren Forster, 10, and Jace Coston watch Stage 1 of the Colorado Classic women’s race Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, in downtown Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs resident Jenn Valente won the first stage. Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette

As the men’s group was on its last lap later, rain poured in full force. Onlookers hugged the sides of buildings and hopped from one foot to the other to keep warm. But smiles remained on many of their faces.

Neither the rain nor the crowds deterred downtown resident Rob Klausch, a cyclist who watched the race from a lawnchair.

"This is a top-level cycling event," Klausch said. "These are the top riders in the world, and we’ve got a few locals in there too."

Though he acknowledged the street closures likely caused some frustration, Klausch said the event wasn’t one to miss.

"Worth it," he said with a nod.

Not for Christorpher Craven, though.

Stranded, Craven stood Thursday morning in front of his van, parked on West Platte Avenue. His two daughters scanned classic rock channels on the radio.

Unaware that 30th Street would close for the race, Craven said he went to register his daughters for school that morning. On their way back, they found their route home blocked by orange cones, barricades and police officers.

"This is freakin’ stupid," Craven said, noting that he works nights and typically sleeps during the day.

"You hear those kids?" he said, pointing west across 30th Street toward a loud but unseen day care. "They’re about 50 feet from my front door."

Close, but Craven had no access.

Officer B. Martinez told Craven he might have to wait hours. Maybe just until the women’s group finished. Maybe until 5 p.m. when the race finished.

The closures were surprising and frustrating, Craven said. But he kept a cool head.

Martinez said most people understood his position. "It’s not been too bad," he said.

Just as he finished that remark, a woman across the street yelled at him about missing a doctor’s appointment. He politely referred her to a sergeant down the street.

Caroline Tobin (center), 8, watches Stage 1 of the Colorado Classic men’s race Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, in downtown Colorado Springs. John Murphy won the stage. Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette

Through the day, police stationed along the race route allowed pedestrians and bicyclists across streets when they could. Motorists were stopped at cross streets. At different points, some officers let cars cross. But those moments were few and far between.

Emotions along 30th Street were hot and cold during the early stages of the race. But everyone turned to watch as groups of cyclists passed. Most cheered, and some held signs offering encouragement.

In Old Colorado City, onlookers eagerly stationed themselves along sidewalks to watch the women’s laps. Some braved their way into the center of Colorado Avenue, which was closed to traffic, for a quick photo before scurrying back to safety.

But as in downtown, the spectators’ enthusiasm didn’t extend into Old Colorado City businesses.

The Holly Leaf, 2522 W. Colorado Ave., a holiday decorations and soap shop, depends on window shoppers and foot traffic for about 80 percent of its business, said owner Julie Fabrizio. Thursday, the store had almost none.

"It’s not like we don’t want to support the community, but we have such a small window for these types of customers," Fabrizio said. "We don’t get a second chance to capture that. So many of our customers are from out of state or out of town. They have one opportunity to get here. And if they don’t, pft, they’re gone."

Despite the slow business and blocked traffic, the Colorado Classic is only in town for one day, said Dennis and Linda Baber, watching the women’s race from lawn chairs on 30th Street.

Early Thursday, the Babers said they hadn’t seen the race cause too much consternation. They said they were happy to have a sunny morning for the event.

"And for us, it hasn’t been too inconvenient," Linda Baber said. "But that could be because we don’t have any place we have to go."

"The world will go on," Dennis Baber said with a laugh.

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