Joel Reichenberger: It takes the town
Steamboat Springs — Dave Nagel stood shaking hands and accepting congratulations as the crowd drained out of the Thunderhead Cafeteria on Aug. 8 at Steamboat Ski Area.
The Ride 4 Yellow was over, and it had been astonishingly successful. The riders came. Lance Armstrong came. The town came, and the money came, more then $300,000 to battle cancer and help cancer sufferers in the region and across the nation.
Even before he could bask in the glory of a job well done, Nagel was starting to tackle a task more difficult than conjuring last week’s massive event out of nothing.
Even before the event, Nagel was worried about topping it in 2011.
How one goes about topping the inaugural Ride 4 Yellow is unclear. It would seem impossible.
That’s not a reflection on the ability of Nagel or on his board of volunteers who helped make everything happen. Rather, it’s a reflection on how seamlessly the first of what they hope are many events went.
Nagel said that there had been a few small diversions from plan, but “wrong” isn’t the right way to describe how anything went, and straightening the few things out would do little to enhance the overall experience.
So, how can they one-up themselves next year? Is it even possible?
The answer to that last question really can be yes, but as important a role as organizers Nagel, the Ride 4 Yellow board and Routt County Riders were to the event, its continued success doesn’t exactly lie in their hands. Instead, Ride 4 Yellow can become a successful event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research every summer if the community can embrace it in years two, three, four and five the way it did in year one.
The ride benefited greatly from its direct ties to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, but it was Armstrong’s participation that pushed the buzz to a fever pitch.
If the ride is to continue to be successful, it might be able to rely on the foundation partnership, but it can’t depend on Armstrong to be the year-in, year-out headliner. Landing Lance seemed the product of good planning and luck, and even though his summer schedule is about to clear up like an elementary school pupil’s, any of a million things — the federal government’s investigation of doping claims against him being one of the most significant — could come up to keep him away from an event that he doesn’t directly have a finger in.
This event doesn’t need Armstrong signed in to succeed. As electric as the days leading up to the event were, and as fun as it was seeing Armstrong smash the trails that we pour our sweat into, the atmosphere at the post-ride lunch was made magical by the astonishing sums of money raised and the compelling stories of cancer battles.
Steamboat can have that without Armstrong. It can play host to an event that raises money and one that inspires all who attend. All that will be required for Ride 4 Yellow, Version 2.0, to succeed is an equal commitment from the community.
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