30 Aug 2012, 5:02pm
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Pro Cycling Fun Wrap Up

Awaiting the Arrival of the Peloton in Telluride

Whoa, what a week it was last week, a wonderful time for cycling fans and lovers of big, colorful happenings. Colorado was blessed with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a terrific seven-day race that had many of the world’s top cyclists traversing some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Multi-colored ribbons of premiere athletes crisscrossed the Rockies with all the excitement and fanfare of the Queen’s jubilee.

Hanging in Telluride Town Park with Debbie and Mary Dawn

A Sprint Finish in T-ride

In Telluride, I hung out in Town Park with Mary Dawn DeBraie, from Alpen Schatz. She had a booth that showcased her glorious array of authentic cowbells while I did some advanced promotions for my new book, “A Tour of the Heart:  A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France.” (Copies will be available soon.) Here vendors touted bikes, bike apparel, bike accessories and a variety of other goods to assure an excellent cycling experience for pros and amateurs alike. Food and beer was also sold, providing the necessary accoutrements for enjoying the race on the big-screen TVs set up in the park. The festival atmosphere of this gathering increased noticeably after the finish when the main street crowds flooded the park


Aspen Start

Awaiting the Peloton in Front of Dior

Congratulating George Hincapie on the End of a Stellar Cycling Career

I didn’t get enough of this lively scene in T-ride—plus, I needed to “get out of Dodge” after too many days at my desk—so I took off for Aspen where the crowds and festivities around the Pro Cycling Challenge increased tenfold. This year Aspen was awarded both a finish and a start, so there were lots of opportunities to get a good look at some excellent racing and even mingle with the cyclists.

The hours leading up to the finish were filled with great racing by the ladies, pro female cyclists that dug into the criterium throughout the city of Aspen with all the grit of the guys. Pony tails flew as they charged numerous times around the course, creating a swoosh nearly as impressive as the power behind the men’s peloton. (More men compete in the Pro Cycling Challenge than in the special ladies’ competition.) Aspen was the only town where the ladies’ raced and it was so much fun that I think they should serve as the warmer-up for every stage. Contact the folks at USA Pro Cycling to cast your vote.

Hitting a race start offers an entirely different experience than a finish. Much like at the Tour de France, in the hours leading up to the departure you’re able to see the pros pedaling around town, warming up for the hundred or so miles they might be racing that day. Crowds gather at the big, shiny team buses where they can easily catch a glimpse of these star riders and sometimes snatch an autograph or even a hug. I found them all to be warm and appreciative toward their fans.

Pro Cycling Queens in Aspen with a Young Fan

Cadel Evans and a Future Fan

I was thrilled to meet George Hincapie for the third time. (The first two occurred in France during the 2001 Tour, two memorable encounters highlighted in “A Tour of the Heart.) Georgie graciously signed my Tour of the Heart poster and picked up a few of my postcards in exchange. Also at the BMC bus, Cadel Evans, winner of last year’s Tour de France, wooed the crowd with his unassuming demeanor as well. He even lingered a bit to take pictures with babies.

After a few laps around Aspen, they were finally off.

I detected no letdown around town, only an exhilarating feeling that the spectators had taken in a show, sure to be remembered. This glamorous mountain destination was also packed with amateur cyclists, many of whom were surely expert racers themselves. They continued to pedal around the streets of Aspen, taking full advantage of the super-cycling enthusiasm generated by the Challenge.

I enjoyed highlights from the remaining stages last weekend during two days of two-hour TV coverage on NBC. Congratulations to American Christian Vande Velde, from Garmin-Sharp team, for winning the USA Pro Cycling Challenge that wrapped up Sunday in Denver. Next year I hope to see the finish—and a few other stages—in person.

Mark the third week in August on your calendar. This is a happening not to be missed, even if you don’t know a thing about pro cycling. If you love color, spectacle and sport, this is a must.

Race Hint

If you do want to seize an autograph for your poster or T-shirt—perhaps one of the many sold at the event—mount it on some kind of a board. It makes it easier for the athletes to sign. They’re much in demand and always in a big hurry, so there’s no time to fuss.

To find out more about the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in general, listen to my interview with race organizer, Shawn Hunter, at Pro Cycling Hits Colorado.

Thank you to Cynda Crozier Norman for some of the above images and to Pedro from Peru and the Mountain Lodge for help with certain technical glitches.

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