23 August 2011

Stage 1 - Pedaling at Altitude

Dancing on the Pedals in Salida - USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 1
Stories from a fan chasing the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and blogging about the experience. Playing tourist in my own state of Colorado.
Stage facts:
Stage 1: 99.4 miles from Salida to Mount Crested Butte
How I enjoyed the day: 

I was at the stage start in Salida, then I rode Cottonwood Pass from Buena Vista. I am staying at the Buffalo Peaks B&B in Buena Vista.
My day as a fan:
A dream day as a fan. I started my morning with a coffee and a quiche at the Cafe Dawn in Salida with two totally fun fans named Jay and Chris from San Diego, CA. They were equally as crazy about cycling as I am. They too had been to the Tour de France, and the Tour of California and the Tour of Georgia (that received an big ooh from me, since I had never been). After viewing a few of their great pictures they captured from yesterday's Prologue on their phone, Chris began to tell me about some new photography software (so please write and tell me more), when two of their friends arrived and suddenly we were back to talking about Jens Voigt and fly-fishing and the super important stuff that matters to fans. 

Here they are, great breakfast companions and very knowledgeable fans:
We then rode over to the start area where live music filled the air and fans were watching the local parade. Team buses began to file in, and I was able to further polish my autograph getting skills. Apparently I have quite a knack for getting autographs. My only rule is do not plow over small children in the pursuit. Of course that doesn't extend to do not crowd out friends - sorry about that Christienne, but it was George!

By the end of the stage today, I added to my Colorado jersey the signatures of Ivan Basso, George Hincapie, Tejay Van Garderen, Rory Sutherland, Oscar Sevilla, and Brent Bookwalter, to those from yesterday of Cadel Evans, Jens Voigt, Jeremy Powers, and Laurens ten Dam. I'd like to mention that both Ivan Basso and Rory Sutherland placed their signature in the center of the big Colorado C on the flag (front and back of the jersey), and Oscar Sevilla drew a small bicycle for me.

I ran into my good friend Dash (my go to man for all things cycling and my best buddy), and Brian and his wife Laurie (a very talented photographer).

Here they are, these guys know cycling, but like to stay incognito:
Story from the day:
The nearby town of Buena Vista has a large state penitentiary. I came across a policeman at the start area today who was overcome trying to keep the citizens out of the road, as he exclaimed, "I can handle the cars, but it's hard to keep everybody safe." I said, "probably because you are a public safety officer." He turned and laughed at me and added, "I work in a prison, I'm not used to this." "So you are not used to people running around wherever they want?" "Nooooo," he said.  He was just one of the very nice volunteers (or paid volunteers in his case) at the race start today.

They also recruited these guys, nice hats:
Fans I met:
I spoke to a cheerful man at the start line VIP area who was from Colorado Springs and chasing the tour for most of the week and considering buying even more VIP tickets. I spoke to a friendly local on Cottonwood Pass who told me all about the area. And then in a moment of total serendipity I met the fan who has been living in a parallel universe to mine, (these were his words not mine, but I liked the drama). 

As I rode my bike up the east side of the long and winding Cottonwood Pass, below intermittent rain showers that fell so softly the mountains seemed magical, I came across a fan setting up his chairs outside his truck along the roadside. "Is that your campsite for the night," I called over. "Yes," he said, "How do you like it." "It looks great, you have your own private pond," I responded still pedaling up the road. "Yes and a broken beaver dam, " he continued. 

Then suddenly this same fan was running up the road after me shouting, "wait, can I ask you something?" I spun my bike around on the quiet road. By now he was looking closely at me and at my bike. "Is your name Karen?" "Yes" "Are you Pedal Dancer?" I was dumbstruck in disbelief. "I recognized your black and yellow Scott bike." He explained that he reads my blog and appreciated all the information I had written about attending the race, and that he too had traveled to France last year. 

Within minutes I was sitting in one of those chairs he had set up, eating his chips and salsa, and generally having an excellent random moment, meeting a fan that I felt should have always been a friend. He showed me pictures of his trip to France last year on his laptop, and explained that he and his girlfriend had traveled almost the same route that I had last year during my 5-week trip to France. 

His name was Mike, and we sat together, near a mountain pass in Colorado today for quite awhile, talking about France and Colorado and the race we were here to chase as fans. It was amazing.

Here he is with his Bagnères de Bigorres jersey he just happened to have with him. Plus he knew of my friend Paddy Sweeney at Velo Peloton in the Pyrenees so that was totally fun:
Pictures from the day:
We are in Salida, Colorado, for the morning. Outdoor playground and excellent white water rafting and kayaking (or "boating" as the locals call it).

More jelly beans and big mountains
Ivan Basso's bike is here - all is okay
By 10:00am it was already hot. The Spidertech guys found a nice big shade tree upon arrival. 
Meanwhile the Bissel boys were out in the hot sun
Dash knocked over these bikes
Ivan Basso (and his shadow)
Patrick Gretsch in the race Leader jersey
Tejay Van Garderen in the Best Young Rider jersey
George Hincapie
Oscar Sevilla
The entire United Healthcare team waits to depart to the start line
Jonathan Vaughters to the start line please, (the sideburns have been refined)
I really like this personable rider - Laurens ten Dam
Also Ted King is a lot of fun to have at a race! No signatures, no photos today, but plenty of cheering him on. I have a nephew who is a professional triathlete, and he is your everyday great guy. I think of Kenny often at these races, to me these athletes are similar to Kenny, regular people who are just like you and me only with an incredible gift they were fortunate enough to harness. They need and appreciative the connection, support and encouragement like all of us.

Which way to the bike race?
They are off, a couple laps around town -
Bike racers are happy when they are racing - do you see Christian Van de Velde smiling? (click any image to enlarge)
Laurens ten Dam is smiling too
Cadel in the center of the pack in his recognizable tuck position
And right away the staff begins tearing it down to move to the next city....
Stage 2 tomorrow ....