DENVER – Colorado authorities are warning cyclists that tacks, box cutters and broken glass have been found strewn along popular bike routes that are part of course plans for major races next week — including the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
The objects are being purposely placed on trails and roads, Jefferson County sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said Tuesday.
"We've had five or six incidents where things were put along popular bicycle roads," Kelley said. She said the incidents have caused several flat tires but no injuries.
The 100-mile Deer Creek Challenge, which takes place in a canyon south of Denver that is one of the most widely-used riding routes in the area, is scheduled for Sunday.
And a day later, elite cyclists from around the world will begin competing in the weeklong, 510-mile Pro Cycling Challenge, which culminates in a final stage that takes riders from Golden's Lookout Mountain in Jefferson County into downtown Denver.
Crews will be sweeping the roads before the races, Kelley said.
She said authorities found broken glass that "appears to have been purposely placed on the shoulder" of Lookout Mountain Road — a scenic, winding site that figures to be one of the more challenging climbs of the professional race.
Kelley said there has been a history of tension between motorists and bicyclists, especially in Deer Creek, where box cutters were found. She said a meeting was held last year between riders and the homeowners association in an effort to negotiate a truce.
Dan Grunig, the executive director of Bicycle Colorado, said bikes sometimes outnumber cars on the shoulderless roadway in the area, causing congestion.
Grunig said bike races in Colorado attract riders — and their dollars — from around the world and it's a shame to have routes sabotaged just as the state's cycling opportunities are about to be highlighted.
"To try to intimidate or endanger those visitors paints Colorado in a bad light," Grunig said.
Deer Creek Challenge organizers don't believe their race was targeted.
"Long before our event was on the drawing board, there were individuals who would protest people riding bikes on their roads by putting tacks down," said Patrick Downing of Downing Events, which stages the Deer Creek Challenge.
Downing said his company would do everything it could to protect riders, noting that he pays "tens of thousands of dollars" for security service from the Colorado Patrol and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department for the event.
He praised the sheriff's department for being even-handed, ticketing both cyclists and drivers who speed or cross the center line.
Pro Cycling Challenge said it is monitoring the situation.
"As a preventative measure for the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the roads included in our race will be monitored throughout the day, swept by CDOT or another agency prior to the arrival of the race caravan and course marshals will be monitoring the roads as well," the organization said in a statement.
Information from: KMGH-TV, http://www.thedenverchannel.com