I have had two VIP experiences over my 10 years of being a crazed fan of cycling. The second one was at the Amgen Tour of California in 2010 as a guest of the Rabobank VIP tent at the finish in Westlake Village. It was VIP luxury. We were given a badge that made us feel so official as it flapped and twirled around on our chests. We were signed in and handed a large gift bag with Rabobank branding on every item including a hat, cowbells, race program, a fan, sunscreen, chapstick, bike light, and more.
VIP treatment includes a buffet food table with hot food, desserts and plenty of drinks, beer and wine. The VIP tents are shaded with tables and chairs and tablecloths and large screen TVs to watch the race live. Typically located along the start or finish line, VIP pass holders can exit or enter their designated tent at any time and are provided with nice executive restroom trailers. VIP tents are offered by the race event organizers, teams sponsors, local fundraising organizations, and private corporations. You can even buy a VIP suite for your friends.
Are VIP passes worth the price? Sure if it is in your budget why not add more to your day's experience at the race. Of course if you cannot afford the VIP pass price, simply show up with your picnic, you'll have just as much fun. You do not need to go VIP. What you should notice is that the VIP start passes in Colorado ($100-$150) are less expensive than they are in California ($200). So if you want to try the experience out, this could be a great chance at a reasonable price.
Post post update: The VIP tent located in Denver for the final stage of the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge was located at the finish line. Fans who got there early could rest at tables and chairs, by the time the fans arrived from the Golden start, the VIP area was getting crowded. Samantha, a fan, reported to me, that it appeared the VIP area had been almost double oversold, and more than over-capacity. She was told they sold over 1800 tickets to the VIP tent in a space that was intended to hold 1000 fans. Eventually they did not have enough seating or food. I understand there were a number of gate crashers in this VIP area. I hope that next year the VIP organizers provide the space and services the fans expect when purchasing VIP tickets at the finish of the tour. I also think they should check off the passes at entry or check ID. Certainly not every VIP tent is created equal.
Post post update: Although not right at the start ramp, VIP pass holders could stand on a nearby embankment and watch the riders start.
Post post update: This ended up being a great VIP area, the tent stretched the length of the final sprint just before the finish line. The only thing they ran out of was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
VIP tickets are sometimes mailed out to buyers (USA Pro Challenge said they would be mailed out the first week of August). We picked up our tickets at a Will Call table located near the VIP tents. They had a long list of VIP names with our names happily printed on the sheet. We were given our laniers and passes to be worn for the duration of the stage event. Tickets are usually for the start or the finish.