Adventures in life and photography out West

Posts tagged “USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Loving it

I’m running behind, but having fun. At’s been several weeks since the USA Pro Challenge but I have several images still. Some don’t have Jens Voigt in them. Can you get this close to pros in any other sport? Not likely. We, the adoring fans, can also enjoy riding on more or less the same course as the heroes. I don’t get to play hockey in the Pepsi Center. My tennis fan friends don’t get to play center court at Wimbledon. I have actually touched these guys, as well as having ridden some of the same roads.

So, without further delay. . .

Alex Howes Fan of France Jens Tejay Tommy D Sweeping Through Phinney rolls Lil Champ King of Pain


JensJensJens!

27EPLPht JensJensJens

 

German and man of the world, Jens Voigt, receives a send-off worthy of a king from fans before the start of Sunday’s final stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Boulder, Colorado. After 18 professional racing seasons, 17 Tours de France and countless souls crushed, Voigt hung up his race wheels for the last time after Sunday’s race finish.


Here we go, one last time

So the USA Pro Challenge is set to start today with the circuit between Aspen and Snowmass. The stage was so popular last year that the organizers brought it back this year. While that returned this season, at least one fixture of the peloton won’t be back next year.

Lunchbox-hero Jens Voigt will ride one last race, the Pro Challenge, then hang up his bike as a pro. The Jensie grew up in the old East Germany and has been a pro since 1997 and has worn the coveted yellow jersey of the Tour on two occasions. Two years ago, Jens won an epic breakaway stage from Aspen, over Independence Pass and all the way into Beaver Creek.

Jens has made his career sacrificing for his team leaders. This, and his easy-going personality, has made him a world-wide fan favorite. No one attacks more. No one suffers better. No one stands around and chats with fans quite as much as Jensie.

Good luck this week and enjoy your time with the family in retirement. And thanks for the memories.

RadeoShack rider and fan favorite Jens Voigt leans through the turn off of Broadway onto Colfax Avenue in Denver on Sunday. Voigt was quoted as loving Colorado race fans as much as they love him as the fans are also riders and know what it's like to suffer through the mountain climbs.

RadeoShack rider and fan favorite Jens Voigt leans through the turn off of Broadway onto Colfax Avenue in Denver on Sunday. Voigt was quoted as loving Colorado race fans as much as they love him as the fans are also riders and know what it’s like to suffer through the mountain climbs.


Seven days of World Class fun

This weekend’s broadcast of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge beamed images of some of the world’s best cyclists all over the world, and with it, the vistas of Estes Park.

“America’s Race” started in Aspen on Monday, August 19, and wound its way through the Rocky Mountains, including through Northern Colorado and Estes Park, on its way to the finale in Denver. Race organizers boasted 200 nations and territories saw the race in its 600-plus mile journey through the state.

ImageBy the time the race reached Estes Park on Saturday, August 24, 114 out of the original 128 riders remained. Altitude seemed to be the biggest challenge to riders used to high points of 7,000 feet. Joe Dombrowski was looking forward to competing in the US with the support of Tour de France winner Chris Froome. Froome only arrived three days ahead of the start and suffered throughout the week of racing. Dombrowski developed a nose bleed, a condition he had suffered as a child. The bleed hadn’t stopped after two stages, forcing the young American to drop out.Image

Slovak sprinter and Tour de France Points champion Peter Sagan arrived two weeks ahead of the race in an attempt to acclimates. It seemed to pay off. Sagan nabbed the first stage win after a three circuit ride of almost 64 miles from Aspen to Snowmass and back.

The second stage began in aspen and quickly took the riders to dizzying heights, climbing first over Independence Pass, the Hoosier Pass and finally the short but steep Boreas Pass before plunging into Breckenridge. The 126.1-mile stage was battled out between BMC’s Mathias Frank, Garmin-Sharp’s young Australian Lachlan Morton and, surprisingly, big Peter Sagan.

Lachlan Morton was a revelation in the Pro Cycling Challenge. The Best Young Rider has ridden the roads of the Challenge since he was 13.

Lachlan Morton was a revelation in the Pro Cycling Challenge. The Best Young Rider has ridden the roads of the Challenge since he was 13.

Frank and Morton sparred for most of the day in the front breakaway before Frank was able to attack and make a gap on the last few yards of the Boreas Pass climb. Morton stayed close behind but could not catch the Swiss climber. Morton was able to hold of Sagan who showed impressive strength in ascending the last climb in enough time to nearly catch Morton on the run into Breckenridge.Image

“The altitude is the biggest difference,” said the stage winner, Frank. “In the Alps you finish at the altitude we’re already at (to start) here.”

Sagan would lose the Smashburger leaders’ jersey by 11 seconds, but it was Morton, not the stage winner Frank, who would wear the golden fleece to Steamboat Springs on Stage 3.

The third stage headed north out of Breckenridge on a 106-mile route that saw the race’s elder statesman, German RadioShack rider and fan favorite Jens Voigt, spend most of the day driving the break. Voigt and four other rider, none of whom threatened the overall standings, raced away from the pack over the day’s first climb, Swan Mountain, and stayed away, working together nearly to the foot of the day’s big climb.

Just shy of the Rabbit Ears Pass climb, the 41-year-old Voigt pulled away from the rest of the breakaway, much like he had done to take a stage win in last years Pro Challenge. Voigt lead the race over the KOM point on the pass and down the west side. Team Cannondale was not going to make it easy, however.

Peter Sagan’s squad, with help from Argos-Shimano and Optum-Kelley Benefits, swallowed up the flagging breakaway, leaving the veteran, Voigt, alone in the lead. With a long, flat final six miles, the peloton reached speeds of 40 mph, catching the German nearly within sight of the finish.

“I was disappointed,” said Voigt. “But I’d rather get caught then get in a crash.”

RadeoShack rider and fan favorite Jens Voigt leans through the turn off of Broadway onto Colfax Avenue in Denver on Sunday. Voigt was quoted as loving Colorado race fans as much as they love him as the fans are also riders and know what it's like to suffer through the mountain climbs.

RadioShack rider and fan favorite Jens Voigt leans through the turn off of Broadway onto Colfax Avenue in Denver on Sunday. Voigt was quoted as loving Colorado race fans as much as they love him as the fans are also riders and know what it’s like to suffer through the mountain climbs.

Shortly after the catch, with about two miles to go, wheels touched and several riders went down. Some went to the hospital, the most rolled across the line. Those who were caught behind the crash were awarded the same time as the winner, as the crash occurred so close to the finish.

At the finish, it was again the Terminator, Peter Sagan, who collected the win, beating Luka Mezgec of Argos-Shimano.

Stage four was marked by the organization as the Queen Stage. The route took riders 103 miles, but included the long steep climb of Bachelor Gulch.

“That thing (Bachelor Gulch) is incredible,” exclaimed King of the Mountains contender Matt Cooke of the Jamis-Sutter Homes team. “I’m just impressed that anyone can ride up that pretty fast. It was steep and one heck of a course.”

Matt Cook, right, weres the red King of the Mountains jersey as riders speed away from Estes Park on Saturday. If the stage seemed fast to roadside observers, it was: riders averaged over 27 mph over the 115-mile stage.

Matt Cook, right, wears the red Nissan King of the Mountains jersey as riders speed away from Estes Park on Saturday. If the stage seemed fast to roadside observers, it was: riders averaged over 27 mph over the 115-mile stage.

The climb blew the peloton apart. Groups of two and three remained after Colombian rider Janier Acevedo of Jamis followed Garmin-Sharp’s Tom Danielson, Tejay van Garderen and Matias Frank of BMC as they chased down a solo break by Mick Rodgers of Saxo-Tinkoff. Rogers had been the lone survivor of the early break, but was caught and dropped by the elite riders.

In the end, Acevedo and Colorado native van Garteren worked together to drop Danielson and cross the line in Beaver Creek. Acevedo got the stage, but van Garteren got the yellow jersey.

Van Garteren tightened his grip on the leaders’ jersey in the next day’s individual time trial on Vail Pass. The ten-mile route saw van Garteren take out the win in yellow, just four seconds ahead of Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky.

Tejay van Garderen cruises through the streets of Denver with the jersey we weld since Beaver Creak Three days earlier.

Tejay van Garderen cruises through the streets of Denver with the jersey we held since Beaver Creak Three days earlier.

The sixth stage from Loveland to Fort Collins would be the only real chance for anyone to catch the young Fort Collins native, van Garteren. While a large, 15-man break got away early and carried a 2-minute lead over the climb of Devils Gulch and into Estes Park, Sagan’s Cannondale squad came to the fore and crushed all hope of a breakaway win. After a few scares on the climbs around Horsetooth Reservoir, Sagan roared across the finish line on Mountain Avenue in Old Town, his third sprint victory and the last he needed to secure the Points Category win.

The Peloton buzzes around a switchback above Glen Haven on Saturday. The ability to get close to the riders drew around 700 fans to the last KOM climb outside of Estes Park.

The Peloton buzzes around a switchback above Glen Haven on Saturday. The ability to get close to the riders drew around 700 fans to the last KOM climb outside of Estes Park.

In Denver, riders got a break from climbing, ascending and descending only 30 feet for each of the eight circuits from the Capitol Building on Broadway and Colfax, east to City Park, back to Speer Blvd, then back to the Civic Center Park.

A breakaway formed early and was again chased down by Team Cannondale, giving Sagan his fourth win in seven stages. Van Garteren finished safely in the pack to claim the overall victory. The win was van Garteren’s second major stage race GC victory this season, after May’s Tour of California.

The final jersey winners.

The final jersey winners.

Sagan easily took home the green Clif Bar Points jersey. Matt Cooke won the Nissan King of the Mountains competition. Early race leader Morton won the Colorado State University Best Young Rider competition and Ben King of RadioShack-Leopard Trek won the FirstBank Most Aggressive Rider jersey for his efforts throughout the race.

Mathias Frank, Tejay van Garderen and Tom Danielson their final placings celebrate by soaking each other, the crowd and the podium girls after their presentation.

Mathias Frank, Tejay van Garderen and Tom Danielson celebrate their final placings by soaking each other, the crowd and the podium girls after their presentation.

At the end of the podium presentations, Christian Vande Velde was given special recognition as the USAPCC was his final pro American race. Vande Velde will retire at the end of the season after a carreer stretching back to 2008.

Christian Vande Velde, the 2012 Pro Challenge champion, waves a fond farewell to the Colorado crowd on the podium on Sunday. Vande Velde, who has been a pro racer since 1998.

Christian Vande Velde, the 2012 Pro Challenge champion, waves a fond farewell to the Colorado crowd on the podium on Sunday. Vande Velde, who has been a pro racer since 1998, finished as high as fourth place in the Tour de France.

All images copyright Walt Hester Photography. Visit WaltHester.com to see all images from stages 6 & 7 of the 2013 USA Pro Cycling Challenge

For more on the race, go to usaprocyclingchallenge.com


So close

Jens Vougt spent all but 8.5 miles out in front of Wednesday’s 106-mile stage from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs. Unfortunately for the 41-year-old German, he was not in the lead for the last 1.5 miles. Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, once again, flashed across the line saluting the crowd for his second stage win of the week.

 

I was dissapointed and said ‘dammit’”, said Voigt, a fan favorite rider for RadioShack. “I was just a little bit mad with the world in general, but it could have been worse – it’s better than being in a crash.”

 

The attacks began early, though none stuck until the fan-lined Swan Mountain climb, about seven miles in. Cannondale’s Ted King managed to escape the pack, followed by Matt Cook of Jamis-Hagens Berman and RadioShack’s Voigt. Joshua Edmond (Sky Pro Cycling), Tyler Wren (Jamis) and Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly) joined the first threesome as they charged through the Silverthorn sprint point.

 

On the long road to Rabbit Ears Pass, the escape group, Voigt, Edmond, Tvetcov, Wren and Cannaondale’s Davide Villella gained a gap of up to five minutes before the peloton started reeling them back in. At that point, with 32.6 miles left and the start of the last climb just ahead, the race’s oldest athlete, Voigt, took off, leaving his younger rivals to be swallowed up by the pack.

 

Voigt went over the KOM point alone and started down the west side of the Rabbit Ears Pass with a 2:40 lead over the peloton, but Sagan put his squad on the front, and got a little help from Argos-Shimano to chase the solo break. It took the pack a 40-mph effort to catch Voigt, nearly within sight of the finish line.

 

Shortly after the pack overtook Voigt, a touch of wheels resulted on a pile-up, sending several riders to the hospital. As a result, those who were effected, but still finished, were given the same time as Sagan.

 

Within the last 100 yards, Sagan again catapulted around his rivals to claim his second stage. He was followed by Luka Mezgec of Argos Shimano, and Ryan Anderson of Optum.

 

I’m very happy about my stage win today and I want to thank all my teammates because they did great work,” Sagan said after the win. “For now I feel good and think I can do well on these climbs.”

 

With the win, Sagan added to his lead in the Cliff Bar Points competition, allowing the charismatic Slovac to keep the green jersey. Matt Cook’s efforts over Swan Mountain and Rabbit Ears Pass allowed him to keep the red Nissan King of the Mountains jersey.

 

Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp) retains the SmashBurger leader’s jersey, as well as the CSU Best Young Rider jersey. Voigt’s long, hard effort was rewarded with the FirstBank Most Courageous Rider jersey.

 

Sky Pro Cycling rider Joe Dombrowsky had problems with nose bleeds during stage two and did not start stage three.

 

Thursday will see the race head back south on a 103-mile stage from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek. Riders will face the new climb of Bachelor Gulch, nearly 18 miles with ramps of up to 18 percent, before facing the short, difficult climb into Beaver Creek. 


Let’s be Frank

Mathias Frank of BMC Racing has not claimed a lot of wins in his pro career, just five since 2008, but on Tuesday’s Queen stage of the USA Pro Challenge the Swiss youngster attacked on the shortest climb. The tough climbing stage from Aspen to Breckenridge was won on the short, steep final climb of Boreas Pass.

 

It was a really tough day, especially with the altitude,” said Frank. “The stage win was the most important thing for me.”

 

Frank bridged up to a small group of leader before the last climb, a 15 percent pitch, in which only Garmin-Sharp’s Lachlan Morton could follow. With so many riders on the same time, Frank needed five seconds over the rest of the field to take yellow, but only beat Morton by three seconds. Garmin-Sharp’s 21-year-old American donned the leaders jersey to start Wednesday’s stage.

 

The second stage of the Pro Challenge was a 126.1-mile climbers’ fest, ascending some 12,250 feet over three passes. The fun started almost right out of the gate, climbing the category one Independence Pass, 13.7 miles from Aspen to the 12,095-foot summit. BMC’s Michael Schar attacked on the climb and was eventually joined by KOM leader Matthew Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman) and Luis Lemus (Jelly Belly) before crossing the races highest point. The group built a lead of five minutes before streaking down the east side.

 

The high pass was the end for two riders, Peter Kennaugh of Team Sky and JJ Haedo of Jamis. Both riders stepped off their bikes before reaching the peak of the first pass.

 

The team of Points leader Peter Sagan lead the chase to bring back the three escapees as the pack approached the second category Hoosier Pass. By the time the peloton was halfway across South Park, they had nailed back three minutes, narrowing the gap to 2:25. RadioShack joined the chase and the peloton swept up the break away near Fairplay.

 

Once the second climb started, the counter attack began. Fiteen riders, including Frank, Morton, as well as RadioShack’s Andy Schleck. The group only mustered 1:40 at the start of the Hoosier Pass. Morton attacked on the slope, separating himself from the group. Schleck tried to bring him back, but failed. Over the top, Morton was alone and had two minutes over the chase group of Saxo-Tinkoff’s Michael Rogers, Frank and Livestrong rider Lawson Craddock.

 

Morton continued pushing on the descent, but was caught by Frank and Craddock. The trio worked together at that point to hold the chase at bay, 45 seconds ahead of the chase on the way to Moonstone Drive and the final climb of Boreas Pass.

 

Schleck and the rest of the chase was pulled back into the main peloton in the race’s first pass through Breckenridge, with about 34 miles to race. The leading trio, however, managed to build a lead of 1:15 just 1,200 yards shy of the Boreas Pass summit. Garmin-Sharp and the Colombia team took up the chase as they headed up the last leg-breaking ascent.

 

Frank bolted away from his compatriots inside of the last mile up Boreas Pass. The move doomed Craddock. Morton followed Frank, but also lost contact just short of the summit.

The race’s most consistant, and on this stage, most surprising rider, Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, launched out of the pack just 900 yards short of the summit of the last climb, dragging BMC’s Tejay van Garderen with him. Five more seconds behind, Garnmin’s Tom Danielson and Colombia’s Darwin Atapuma tried to bridge to the chase group.

 

It was just a crazy race all around, hard to predict and hard to control,” van Garderen told VeloNews. “When Sagan went, I saw Danielson was struggling and I said ‘let’s do this’”

 

With just a mile left, Sagan and van Garderen caught Craddock. Ahead of them, however, Frank was drilling it to stay away and eventually claim the second stage. Frank coasted across, hitting a bodybuilder’s pose as he stopped the clock at 5:05:19.

 

Morton followed close behind to claim both the leaders yellow jersey and the Best Young Rider jersey. Sagan came across the finish line 14 seconds back, in third place, retaining his Points Leader green jersey. Sagan is third overall, only 11 second behind Morton in the GC.

 

Jamis-Hagen Berman’s Matt Cook hangs on to the King of the Mountains jersey, six points ahead of Garmin’s Morton. At just two stages in, BMC is the best team, 21 seconds ahead of Garmin-Sharp.

 

Of the big favorites, BMC’s van Garderen is in fourth at 11 seconds back. Garmin-Sharp’s Danielson is 29 back, in sixth. Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rory Sutherland is 41 seconds back in 13th. American Joe Dombroski, the de facto leader of Team Sky, is 1:04 back in 26th. The team’s Tour de France champion, Chris Froome, is suffering at altitude, some 16:08 back and about mid-pack at 76th place.

 

Wednesday take the riders out of Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs. The third stage is 106.6 miles with 5,865 feet of climbing, mostly on the climb up the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass. The pass is long, but not too steep. A break could get away on the roads leading to the climb, but with 20 more miles into Steamboat after the summit, it is unlikely a break will hold off Cannondale and their sprinter, Sagan.


More Fun, Please

The USA Pro Challenge is bearing down on us like a bunch sprint. But why should they have all the two-wheeled fun? There are plenty of events going on around the event before the pro men come storming through.

This Sunday, August 4, the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bicycle Tour climbs up a portion of the Pro Challenge route and spends the night in Estes Park. The week-long ride is like Ride the Rockies, only smaller and tougher.

 Tour director Peter Duffy made a conscious effort to keep the ride to a more manageable 500 riders, as opposed to RTR’s 2,000-plus. The ride is also 469 miles in just six days of riding. There are several challenging climbs along the way, including a triple day that takes riders from Golden to Fraser over Lookout Mountain, Juniper pass and Berthoud Pass. Riders have an option to through in Mount Evans to make the day a century if they really want.

The ride begins and ends in the Loveland-Fort Collins area and stops in Estes Park, Golden, Fraser, Steamboat Springs, Walden and back to Fort Collins. While it’s too late to sign up for it this year, keep it in mind for next summer. Go to crmbt.com to learn more.

 Next Sunday, August 11, the Larimer County organizers behind our leg of the Pro Challenge are staging a ride out of Fort Collins called the Larimer County Pro Challenge Experience. The event features three rides all starting at the New Belgium Brewery; 32, 50 and 108 miles. The 108-mile ride features a timed ascent to Red Feather Lakes. First over the top, the King and Queen of the Mountains receive an entry in the amateur time trial up Vail Pass before the Pro Challenge stage 5 on Friday, August 23.

Both rides are fully supported with SAG wagons and aid stations. Ride gear is also available for both, if you really want to look like you belong there. The Pro Challenge Experience has a rider expo at the start/finish line.

 On the day of the Loveland to Fort Collins stage, the Fort Follies women’s cycling team will host the Women’s Grand Prix race for Pro/Cat. 1-2 women on the finishing circuit of the stage. The day begins with a Ride with a Pro event, encouraging women of all ages and abilities to take a ride with the pro women. That starts at 8 a.m. in Old Town Fort Collins, anding at a supporting coffee shop. Beginning at noon, the women throw down, racing the finishing circuit in a criterium until 12:50. See how hard and fast the women race as they compete for sprints, the best young rider competition, as well as the final race win. Having seen a women’s crit before, I can say you might be surprised how fast these ladies go.

 No matter what your fancy, the weeks leading up to the USA Pro Challenge will offer plenty for the amateur rider to enjoy. Don’t just sit on the couch waiting for the pros, get out and participate.

 Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

Image


Excitement builds

The Giro d’Italia is over. The Tour de Frances is just next month and the Ride the Rockies, by the time you read this, is nine days in the future. To say I’m wound up would be an understatement. Now the hard part: relaxing

Image

I have been working out, watching my diet, counting every calorie both in and out for months. As I write, the new Shimano Dura-Ace group set is on a UPS truck bound for my home. I’ve begun to receive my media information from the wonderful folks who run Ride the Rockies and I can barely wait. I have to, however, and I have to relax a bit.

This next week is the taper. If you get on the RTR website, the training schedule goes from 185 total miles this week down to 90 next week. It’s time to give the legs a break and let them regenerate. Wednesday this week was the last day I lifted weights ahead of the ride. This is the week when we want to put our legs up a little more, drink even more water and stay off the bike for anything more than maybe 90 minutes.

This is a good week to check the bike. Make sure all of your cables and housings are in good shape. Check your break levers to make sure they’re not sticky or sluggish. Give the chain a good cleaning and re-lubing. Check to make sure your wheels are true. Even check your shoes and cleats to make sure they are clean and properly aligned. There are still plenty of things to do ahead of the week on the bike, even if we don’t ride.

Make sure you have your on-bike nutrition dialed in. Just because we are not pros does not mean we should ignore this detail. I have an array of sensitivities and intolerance, as well as a relatively tight budget. I have to watch what I eat so that I can enjoy my time on and off of the bike that week. I spent some time at CostCo this weekend gearing up with this in mind.

I’m not quite to the point of packing. That will come next week, but I have my bags and a bike box ready. If you are headed for Telluride, you should, too. I hope to cover all of this next week.

In the Amgen Tour of California, young American and Colorado resident Tejay Van Garderen snagged the races GC win, his first major stage race victory. Van Garderen seemed to be the odds-on favorite throughout the week that started in San Diego County under a scorching sun.

Racers suffered the first two days in 110-degree heat, amplified by the pavement. The race began in the south of the Golden State and headed north this year with visits to Mount Diablo where Van Garderen cemented his win, a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge for only the second time in race history, and a final finish in Santa Rosa where Peter Sagan took the final sprint victory as well as the green points jersey for the second year running.

Along the way, relative old-timer, Jen Voigt won stage five. It was his first win since last August when he won the Queen Stage of the USA Pro Challenge from Aspen to Beaver Creek on a long solo break away. Voigt, an international fan favorite, will also race the Pro Challenge when it again winds throu Colorado this coming August.

Just last Sunday, Vicenzo Nibali took an unusually cold and snowy Giro d’Italia. The race saw Dolomite stages modified, and in one case cancelled due to the snowy conditions. Some riders groused about the mid-race changes, but for the sake of rider safety, it was the best thing to do, according to race organizers.

Mark Cavendish won the final sprint into Brecia. It was his fifth sprint win of this year’s Giro. It assured the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider of the races points competition win and made the Manx Missile only the fifth race to claim the points jersey in all three Grand Tours.

The town is still looking for volunteers and ideas for the weekend that the USA Pro Challenge wheels through town. Contact the Special Events folks at 586-6104.

Meanwhile, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding, at least a little.

The image is from the main street in Leadville during last year’s Ride the Rockies.


Full Speed Ahead

It is clearly cycling season, even at altitude. At the middle of May, one grand tour is snaking across Italy, one smaller tour is heading up the state of California and we are four weeks from the start of Ride the Rockies. But wait . . . there’s more.

 The town of Estes Park is gearing up for its moment in the international cycling spotlight. With riders like Cadel Evans from Australia, Peter Sagan from Slovakia, Andy Schleck from Luxembourg and the Garmin-Sharp team from just down the hill in Boulder, it is very much an international event. Fans and reporters from around the world will likely show up, as well. Estes Park, as a whole, needs to get involved to show the world that we are a place to visit.

 Bo Winslow, the town’s Community Services Director, has put out a call for volunteers. The town needs course marshals, idea people to help with related events in town the day of the race, as well as vendors to keep the visitors in Estes with food, gifts and the like. If you think you want to help, contact Bo at 586-6104 or e-mail events@estes.org.

 I have heard there are detractors who point to flopping rock shows as a reason that we should not care. To that I say, the bands who have come for those shows have not been top acts since I was in elementary school in the ’70s. The guys who will be blowing through town on August 24 will be the very best riders on earth right now. These are the best of the best. These guys are faster and fitter than anyone you personally know. These guys competed for medals in the Olympics and will be here preparing for the World Road and Time Trial Championships. In cycling, if you’re not in France in July, it really does not get any better than this.

 To get an idea of what we are in for, tune in to the Amgen Tour of California, going on this week. Folks are lining the race route, especially on the climbs and in towns, two things we have going for us. We will see the end of a race within the race as the last King of the Mountains points will be collected at the top of the Glen Haven switchbacks.

 The one thing we will have that the California race doesn’t is that many people will still be on summer vacation when the Pro Cycling Challenge comes through. And, because it will be a Saturday, and with our proximity to our major population centers, we could see a crowd matched only by the Scot Fest, except they will all funnel into downtown. This is a chance to show a global audience all of what Estes Park has to offer.

 There will be another, slower but no less enthusiastic group pedaling through Estes Park 19 days ahead of the pros. I will be riding the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour through here on August 4-5. It is the opening day of the ride that loops beginning in Fort Collins and visits EP, Golden, Fraser, Steamboat Springs, Walden and back to Fort Collins. This makes a whole summer of fun for me.

 The CRMBT is like Ride the Rockies, only smaller and tougher. While RTR allows 2,000, or so, riders, CRMBT allows only 500. The rout tends to be more challenging, as well. While the toughest day in the saddle for RTR will be Day 4, when we ride over 10,850 foot Wolf Creek Pass, the third day of the CRMBT starts in Golden, climbs Lookout Mountain, ride to Evergreen to climb Juniper Pass, plunges into Idaho Springs, slogs to the base , then climbs Berthoud Pass before finishing in Fraser. Three big climbs over 85 miles. Riders are even invited to ride the Mount Evans Road, if they feel so motivated.

 Tour director Peter Duffy explains that it is a tour for a more dedicated crowd.

I don’t want to bad mouth the Ride The Rockies,” he hastens to say. “I’ve ridden it, it’s fun. The CRMBT is smaller and tougher. We want to appeal to a more dedicated cyclist. The people who ride CRMBT will be a little fitter and a little more enthusiastic.”

 I start my organized riding season this Saturday with the First Ascent Ride, a fund raiser for Livestrong. It is a metric century, starting and ending in Golden, starting with a climb of the Golden Gate Canyon, a road that pitched up to 14 percent in sections, then follows the Peak to Peak highway before descending Coal Creek Canyon and returning to Golden.

 The ride features several members of the 7-Eleven cycling team, as well. It should be a great morning of riding. If you find your Saturday morning open, check the First Ascent Ride website and head down to Golden early. The ride begins at 7:30.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

Image

This image is from the USAPCC web site.


Open hearts and wallets

We are now 14 weeks shy of Ride the Rockies. We should already be
training with that in mind. The earlier one starts, the easier it will
be to achieve the goal of spending a week climbing the beautiful
byways of Colorado. And while suffering is an inherent part of this,
at least you’re not being chased by Jens Voigt or other top pros. Such
a chase will be fun to watch, however.

The recent rumor floating around town is that we can expect nearly
100,000 visitors on the day the USA Pro Challenge rolls through Estes
Park on the second to last day of the race. That’s 100,000 people from
36 states and 16 countries. That’s 100,000 cycling enthusiasts who
average a household income of $113,918, itching to spend it. During
the first USAPCC, they brought about $67 million. The additional money
from traveling press from all over the world brought the total to
$83.5 million in 2011, $90 million in 2012. Imagine 100,000 hungry
stomachs, 100,000 visitors needing a gift from Estes Park, and more
than a few of them wanting to stay over night. Like the Tour de
France, or even Ride the Rockies, this event will expose a great many
people to our little town.

With international press exposure, many millions of potential visitors
will look at the images and think, I want to go there. This is a
chance to shine. This will have positive economic effects far beyond
just one day in late August. It will open us up to the nation and to
the world. Thy will come to see it themselves with eyes and wallets
wide open.

To the curmudgeons who can only think of how this will inconvenience
them, yes, this 1/365th of your year will be bustling. That’s the way
it goes. Stay home. For the rest of us, we’ve seen the races on TV.
Your bike will be the best way to get to the best vantage points in
town.

Now, back to riding. The fine folks at Ride the Rockies have provided
a handy table to help riders prepare for that wonderful week in June
when more than 2,000 riders spend a week astride their favorite bike.
The table can be found under the Rider Area tab at RideTheRockies.com.
Last Last Saturday, February 23, is when their calendar begins. We
should accumulate 40 miles for the week. This next week, beginning
March 2, adds 10 miles to the total. They separate it between weekend
and weekday riding miles. This weekend, they suggest fitting in about
20 miles. I will easily get that just in my extra job. I am, however,
open to fitting in more.

I will offer this each week, knowing that training with someone makes
training easier. I would be open to riding the area’s favorite road,
US 36 from Lyons to Boulder on Sunday morning. It is hilly without
being too nasty for this early in the season. It will also be warmer
down there. If you need to start your miles and want to ride with
someone else, reach me either by phone or e-mail, both found below. If
you are new to road riding, or riding in a group, this would be a
great opportunity to start. Learn rules of the road and, possibly,
roadside repairs. I’m also a big fan of interesting coffee shops. I
know of at least two that would fall within the 20 miles of the ride.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.ImageCycling star Andy Schleck picks his way through the crowd in the cyclist village before the Colorado Springs prologue of the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. No other sport allows fans to get so close to the stars.


Pro Treatment

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge, possibly the most cumbersome name in pro cycling, returns to Colorado next week. The race winds 518 miles starting in Durango this year and ends in a time trial around Capital Hill in Denver. The race won’t come through Estes Park this year, but it gets close.
For stage six of the race, on Saturday, Aug. 25, what remains of the starting 135 riders meander 103.3 miles from the start in Golden into Boulder, up Boulder Canyon to Nederland, then north on Hwy. 72 to nearly Allenspark, where the peloton turns east on Hwy. 7 down to Lyons. The race then heads back to Boulder with a quick, steep detour up Lefthand Canyon and down Lee Hill Drive, before the challenging climb to the finish on Flagstaff Mountain.

If you want to watch in the traditional European way, have breakfast in Allenspark then wander down Hwy. 7 to the junction with Hwy. 72. Bring a picnic and relax. The earliest the race officials expect to get to that turn is 1:35 p.m. Keep your camera ready. The whole pack should whir past in about 10 minutes. After that, you can hang out and enjoy the afternoon, head back into Allenspark, chase the race down to Lyons, or if you feel particularly adventurous, try to get to the finish above Boulder before the race ends. This last option is what I’m going to try.

Plenty of American riders plan to make the start, including defending champion, Levi Leipheimer, this year riding for Omega Pharma-Quickstep. US National Champion Timmy Duggen will again ride for the Italian team Liquigas, along with long-time friend Ted King. The Tour de France’s best young rider, Tejay van Garderen will ride along side Boulder native Taylor Phinney, both riding for BMC Racing. The real marquee rider this year, however, will be BMC’s George Hincapie, who will be riding his final professional race.

Big George, as he is known, has an amazing resume. The 39-year-old Farmingdale, N.Y., native turned pro in 1994. He has finished the punishing Paris-Roubaix on 17 occasions. He has finished 15 consecutive Tours de France, a record. He is the only American ever to win the Ghent-Wevelgem and has ushered three different winners in nine Tours, also a record. All of this is impressive, but there’s more.

Big George is possibly the most respected American in pro cycling at the moment, not for his wins, though he has been US National Champ on three different occasions, not because he bends anyone to his will. George might be the nicest guy on two wheels.

George has an easy smile and will talk to anyone. He sacrifices for his team leader and he helps young rider negotiate the challenges of being a pro cyclist. This year he will, again turn himself inside-out for former Tour champ Cadel Evens, while helping build and hone the skills of van Garderen and Phinney. For seven days, he will ride through Colorado for his professional swan song.

If you have time next week and want to see a true professional, get to one of the stages to watch George ride by. Better yet, head down to Denver on Sunday, August 26, to see the finale and the after party. George’s team, BMC will hold a fundraiser party that evening with the likes of former pros Bob Roll, Ron Kiefle and legendary sprinter Davis Phinney from the 7-Eleven team. The event is called “Living the Ride” and features Team BMC director Jim Ochowicz, who also fouded and ran the 7-Eveven team. A silent auction at the event benefits the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. Tickets and more information can be found at CyclingSoul.com

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

Walt Hester
Cycling legends, from left, Davids Phinney, Connie Carpenter and Ron Kiefel entertained the crowd gathered for the Ride the Rockies cycling seminar on Thursday. Phinney and Kiefel road for the 7-Eleven cycling team in the ’80s and early ’90s, while Carpenter won the first women’s Olympic road race in the ’84 LA games.