Plans to hold this year's Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival alongside Leadville's popular Trail 100 mountain bike enduro have caused a showdown in the small Colorado city.
Civic leaders have welcomed the festival, saying it will provide additional attractions for the riders and relieve some of the pressure from the race’s massive crowds.
But race promoter Ken Chlouber, who is fiercely protective of his event – to the extent that he pressed felony impersonation charges against two riders who traded a start spot in the 2009 edition – is unhappy that the festival is being held on the same weekend as the race he has spent years building up.
“Ken has lived here for a long time and because of his great amount of experience in local government [he's a former state senator] and because of our gratitude for these races, which are one of the strongest economic engines in our community, he does engender a lot of support,” Leadville mayor Bud Elliott told BikeRadar.
RMBF promoter Carol Johnson wanted to move her event outside – it has taken place indoors in Denver for the past two years – and the Leadville 100 weekend was just one week later than the date originally scheduled for the 2010 festival. She hoped to take advantage of the crowds drawn in by the big names who come to race, including Lance Armstrong and Dave Wiens.
“To me, it's a perfect marriage of putting the interests of the bicycle festival vendors and exhibitors together with this audience,” she said. “In the truest sense, it’s looking to collaborate.” Perhaps naively, she did not anticipate any opposition. But according to Johnson, the first time she and Chlouber met he asked two questions. “He said, ‘what do you have that I don’t have? Then he said, ‘well, what are you going to give me?” And I said, 'in terms of money?' And he said, ‘yes, I want you to think about that Miss Johnson’.”
Chlouber remembers the meeting differently; when asked if Johnson’s recount was accurate, he said: “I don’t think so. I’d have to give some thought to that meeting because it was a shock; she just walked in the door. I probably did ask her, 'what can you offer the Leadville Trail 100?' and 'what good is it going to do us?'. Bottom line of all this: I have said my piece before city council. I’m opposed to this bike festival, but apparently it’s going to happen.”
The 71-year-old told BikeRadar he wasn't against Leadville hosting the festival, he just didn't want it on the same weekend as his race. “I’m totally opposed to it," he said, referring to the combining of the two events. “Now, in saying that, let me take the highest of high roads that I can, because when this woman came into my office with this idea, I said no. I said, 'if you will have your festival any other weekend … I’ll help you’. I’ve been doing this for 28 years and I thought that my help to her would be very beneficial. But she chose not to; she wants to be here during that 100-mile bike race weekend. I say, no.”
Chlouber said he was committed to seeing that every dollar spent in Leadville during his mountain bike and trail running race weekends remains in the city. “My goal is to bring money to our businesses,” he said. “This so-called festival would be absolutely contrary to that original and ongoing intention. Money spent there [revenues from festival vendor sales] will go out of Leadville.”
Johnson says her event will benefit the city because she is offering to give 10 percent of door revenues to a local non-profit organisation (another 10 percent will go to Lance Armstrong's cancer charity Livestrong) and has commissioned the local Lions Club to serve beer and bratwursts. She will provide all of the vendors with Leadville’s tax code so event sales can be properly reported.
“When I was asked to provide food and beverage [by the city of Leadville] I then turned it around and said, 'I don’t want to make any money off the food',” said Johnson. “So if the music club [or whoever] wants to come in and do bagels … any non profit organisation in town that wants to raise money can come in and set up a table and have the revenue from any food sold go right back into the community – 100 percent.”
But Chlouber remains unconvinced. “The idea this lady has is a great idea,” he said. “It’s a great idea for our community on another date when we can use it. My passion is our community, its economic survival and the revival of our community. All she’s doing is taking [money] away. I’m hopeful that somebody can convince her of that along the way.”
“The promoter of the race is never going to be happy with somebody else doing something related to bicycling or if it was anything that stole his thunder a little bit he just wouldn’t be happy about it,” said Mayor Elliott. “But I’m happy about it [the Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival]. I think that the public will enjoy it … so I think it’s a positive edition to the whole environment of that weekend.”
The festival is going ahead as planned despite Chlouber asking for the city council to revoke its permit – on the grounds that he was planning his own similar event. He gave a presentation to Leadville’s elected officials at a city council meeting last week to see if they could "help this legitimate business to come at another time". When it became clear that they would stick with their original decision, he withdrew his request.
Now Chlouber says there isn't much he can do apart from stopping he Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival from using his event’s name in their advertising, which his lawyer has already taken care of. "I spent big bucks getting that copyrighted and trademarked," he said. "I’m going to protect it.”
Mayor Elliott said: “What I see as the most likely, positive, outcome is that both events will come off successfully and that both event promoters will be busy enough with their own event that they won’t have time to think about the other party."
Clouber founded the Leadville Trail 100 in 1983 as a running race, and it went on to become a major fixture in the city's calendar. At the time he was unemployed after being laid off from his job as an underground shift boss at the local molybdenum mine. The mountain bike race started in 1994.