31 August 2011

More Cowbell!

On being a fan at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge
After spending a week chasing the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the Pedal Dancer crew held a team CQI meeting to see how we could improve on things for next year's race adventures. In attendance at this meeting were me, and my morning cup of coffee (a vital member of the team). We began the brain storming session encouraging any and all ideas, as completely wrong as they might be. Here is what we came up with:
Things I learned, or re-learned as a fan at a bike race
less lycra (Do you like how this is #1 on the list?) Please stop me before leaving my hotel if you ever see me putting on a lycra kit (shorts and jersey) if my ride for the day will be less than 20 miles total and might involve standing in the hot sun for hours under clear blue skies. This does not apply to mountain top stages or finishes in Colorado where freezing descents are possible (can you say Independence Pass). Think it over; I would not want this job, in lycra and heels for 9 hours, would you?
Liquigas-Cannondale girls in Denver ©Photo by PedalDancer™

do not chase just one guy Okay this might apply to life in general, but it also applies to cycling. If I camp out with all eyes on Andy, I could miss Tejay Van Garderen standing right next to me, who happens to be one heck of a great young rider (albeit with a penchant for changing jersey colors every day). I try to remember to look closely, but think broadly, at a bike race. Okay so I didn't get Andy's signature, but really Jens Voigt is where it is at for me anyway! There were over a hundred riders at the race, all the best at what they do.
Andy and his entourage
Andy Schleck in the large crowd in Steamboat Springs, Stage 5  ©Photo by PedalDancer™
Tejay shooting the breeze
Tejay Van Garderen on a quiet morning in Salida  ©Photo by PedalDancer™

go for it I saw far more than I had hoped at the race. What I expect rarely happens, but the unexpected is the most memorable (like asking Jens how many fish he caught, and meeting others who had read my blog). Being overly cautious or tentative will result in nothing more than missed experiences. When being a fan I keep going until the bikes are put away and the stage is taken down. Go up and chat with that rider or team staff member. Courtesy, confidence and enthusiasm (plus a cowbell and a flag) is about all a fan needs to have a excellent adventure.
Jens Voigt in Colorado Springs  ©Photo by PedalDancer™

stop and share Everyone is there to have a good time. Being at a race is my time to fit in and connect to others who can relate to walking around on a mountain pass in road shoes (actually I bring flip flops, but you get what I mean), or want to marry Andy Schleck (actually I don't, I'll take Bernie), or might admire Jens Voigt as much as I do (actually he told me he admires me - kidding!). Nobody else in the office gets the connection to pain that I share with Jensie. I think the 1 million fans surrounding me at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge understand the thrill of the sprint and the agony of defeat. I am with my people. I want more.
I had to pull over and meet these crazy guys on Rabbit Ears Pass:
The official Routt County chapter of the Jens Voigt fan club  ©Photo by PedalDancer™

wear your pride You can never have enough cowbell or flags or screaming fans. If I noticed anything about this first year race it was that fans have not accumulated the years of t-shirts and hats and history that the fans in Europe have. In Europe the fans wear their pride as our Bronco football fans would. They look ridiculous, but that is the point. I yelled out to two fans wearing only skimpy speedos on Vail Pass, "you've overdressed for the occasion!" I also handed out 50 free American flags on Vail Pass simply to share the tradition. Less speedos, more fan apparel, more flags, more cowbell!
fans on the road during Stage 5 to Breckenridge  ©Photo by PedalDancer™

gear matters "What do you have in that napsack?" I was asked. "All my essentials," I replied. Cowbell, flag, polka dot climbers hat, road chalk, tahini nutella rice cake sandwich, phone, cameras, rainjacket, knee warmers, and cap." Even when I set out to climb up a mountain pass in 75 degree weather, it storms in the afternoons in the mountains of Colorado. I was so cold I was shaking my bike frame on the descent from Independence Pass. I was happy for my essentials. Even for the road chalk so I could scribble out - if found, please dethaw cyclist.
Note looming weather in background and rain jackets on these suspecting cyclists
Michael Gibson and Sherman Towsley on Independence Pass  ©Photo by PedalDancer™

water is heavy Although essential to survival, the stuff is gosh darn heavy to carry. I'm a traditionalist, water belongs in bottles in bottle cages on the bike. Extra water belongs in team cars. I apparently need one of those. Although I would have been fine - there were people on the passes selling water. I even saw a roadside fan on the highway between Avon and Steamboat holding a sign which read, "Free beer, cyclists only!". I supposed that would have worked in a pinch.
I'm certain that baby would have offered me water from his bottle  ©Photo by PedalDancer™

Tour Tracker Loved it!
charge your devices every night The number one priority upon return to my hotel room: charge the phone, camera battery, laptop, (a Pedal Dancer tip is to pack a power strip). I download all my photos and make sure I carry 2 extra memory cards with me, and 1 extra camera. These devices have a knack for locking up just as Cadel is standing in front of you. 
I swear this is Cadel Evans - t-shirt!

bring a pen Bring two. Riders do not (don't always - read comments) head to the start line with a sharpie pen in their back pocket, so you'll need to keep one handy. I saw fans collecting signatures on jerseys (oh wait that was me), on magazines, on cards, on photographs, on posters, t-shirts, hats, their own body. I even saw a fan ask Tommy D if he could sign a HTC-Highroad hat (at least the fan asked permission first).
This pen does not belong to Tommy D  ©Photo by PedalDancer™

bring your bike or bikes Packing list: 1 road bike + 1 townie bike = ready to chase a tour in Colorado. The smartest thing I did was to bring two bikes with me, it enabled me to avoid traffic and park and ride around town to find the key locations like start, team buses, sign-in, finish, VIP, parties, friends, etc. My townie bike had locks and lights so I could enjoy a drink and ride back to my hotel. My road bike is pure and light and my main machine. It brought me easily up the passes.
keep it simple/3 things a day This is my traveling mantra. For this race, my 3 things were ride, ring that bell, drink a beer. Nah, it was more like see a start, drive to the next town, meet friends for dinner.
be free Once I have to start taking care of other people at a race, I miss out on seeing so much. I much prefer to roam on my own and meet new people, so don't be afraid to come alone if you cannot be with a group of others, you will not be alone for long. Although I admit I greatly enjoyed unwinding and recapping at day's end with my brother Michael (on the phone), Scott Christopher and Dash. Still having the freedom to move as a fan is key for me. It is like freely moving in a playground and not having to wait for another to go to the swing set with me. I hear constant stories from fans who report they "just happened to be in the right spot," or "we were at the best place to see the race," (amazing how everyone has the same comment). Moving around increases your odds. Besides cell phones are for finding your friends later and telling them, I just got my picture with Big George - where were you?
One big playground for a fan
The team area at Garden of the Gods, Prologue  ©Photo by PedalDancer™

do what you are good at: I am good at compiling information, enjoying the simple pleasures in life, and encouraging others. I care little about promoting myself, but I do care greatly about promoting the sport. I am glad others excel at tweeting and writing up race results, taking excellent photos that inspire me, and offering their opinions - that is their niche, I depend on them, but I connect with the fans, because I am one. 
If you want answers to your cycling fan questions, or to build your expertise level about the world of being a cycling fan in general, or to know who, what, how and where - please continue to visit PedalDancer.com as we continue to grow into the future. Me and my cup of coffee ... and cowbell (jingaling-galing)