25 August 2011

Stage 3 - Pedaling at Altitude

Dancing on the Pedals on Vail Pass - USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 3
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 3: 10 miles from Vail Village to Vail Pass
How I enjoyed the day:

I ate a big breakfast (I mention this first because this was greatly needed after spending the day on Independence pass yesterday). I roamed around the start area, visited with friends, rode my bike up Vail Pass, then watched the podium presentations in Vail Village, finally enjoying the concert in Vail Village and a fun dinner.
My day as a fan:
I was so impressed with Vail as a host city. My favorite Tour host city has always been Solvang for the Tour of California ITT, but I gotta say Vail did an absolutely excellent job in set-up, layout, transportation, events, and communicating to fans. Everyone I spoke to had a different experience today, I think that is because Vail made it possible to have so many choices. 

I rode up Vail Pass barely making the cut-off time but feeling fine on the short climb. I heard the very recognizable sound of a disc wheel approaching from behind me only to look over and see Ivan Basso coming up beside me. That is thrilling as a fan, to be on the same road at the same time as a rider of this level.

I watched all of the race on Vail Pass, located just before the barriers to the finish where the fans where way too close to the cars and riders. 
Action packed, but somehow a bit dull compared to the entertaining light hearted fans on Independence Pass the previous day. So much calmer than the Tour de France, perhaps it was the heat (it was hot!), I am not certain. I carried up 50 American flags (large and small) to hand out to spectators at the finish. There was excitement when the riders came by.

What was thrilling was my ride down the mountain after the race. I rode from the top all the way into town behind (and a little in front of) Oscar Sevilla and Sergio Luis Hanao of team Gobernacion de Antioquia - Indeportes Antiquia. At one point there was a flock of 3 women descending rapidly around the pair as they rode side by side, when suddenly Oscar realized, hey I'm being passed by a woman. So he teased her and laughed and sped up a bit playfully. It was great fun, and totally unexpected. I did not think ahead to realize I might get the chance to descend along with some pros.
Story from the day:
My biggest triumph today was in talking about the new Specialized SL4, knowing that both HTC-Highroad and Saxo Bank-Sungaurd rode Specialized bikes in this Tour, and proving my friend Rich wrong. We all know as cycling fans how good it feels to triumph over a friend when it comes to talking cycling, although it was simple it was pure. 

On Vail Pass today I happened to notice a very short blond haired woman Photographer whom I had noticed before at earlier stages. As she walked directly in front of me today, I thought why not ask her a few questions about being a photographer. So I said, "what is your name," before I could say anything more she said, "Beth, why are you going to report me?" I thought this quite odd - I had jsut wanted to learn from her experience. 

Ten seconds later, as I rider approached up the pass, I watched this small light blonde photographer position her large camera to her eye, just as a typical fan bent down 4 feet in front of her to get his own shot. Beth lunged at this 6'2" man and yanked him by his backpack straps so hard she threw him to the side of the road - on the ground! The fans around me were stunned. The man was furious and a verbal battle between petite Beth and the fan ensued. She screamed at the fan, "this is my job, how would you like someone getting in the way of your job." Fans began to scream at her. It was more than awkward. 
Twenty minutes later an unknowing VeloNews Photographer came to the same spot in front of me, he was courteous to everyone near him, he smiled, he knelt down, did his job and was an absolute professional. This taught me a lesson. I am applying for a Press Pass because I saw an example of how the Press can and should behave. 

Post post update: The next morning in Avon, still shaken by seeing the treatment of the fan by this photographer, I happened to bump into one of the fans that had the assertiveness to speak up and defend the fan. I thanked her, and said, "I am so glad you sad something to the photographer because I was so disturbed by that, she was really aggressive toward him. It was not necessary." I appreciate that professional photographers capture images for print copy, but their one photo is not worth injuring a person. I have since learned the photographer was Beth Schneider a free-lance photographer.
Fans I met:
I met a very helpful knowledgeable couple from Montana over breakfast who were chasing the Tour for the week without bikes, they wanted me to know that Tejay Van Garderen was from Montana. I spent the early morning having coffee near the start line in Vail with my cycling talk buddies (and really big cyclocross fans and racers) Rich, Brian and Dash of the Frites en Mayo Velo Club.
I road up the frontage road and spoke with an enthusiastic local from Vail as we cheered on the pro riders passing during their warm-up. At the 1km Red Kite I saw my old teammate Randy Gaffney. I them saw a friend I hadn't seen in maybe 10 years Mark Sutherland. At the finish area I met my old dear friend Carl (Carlito) Schmidtlein and his coworker Ryan who had skipped out on work for the day. 
Ryan and Carl
me and Carlito
At dinner, a full-time race Course Marshall named Mark sat down next to me at the bar at Vendetta's in Vail. Waiting for his large group table, Mark told me about the job of a Course Marshal. To my left was a very friendly young woman from Brazil named Amanda. We chatted and had dinner together as the place became increasingly packed out with locals and tourists talking loud and taking shots. We watched wide-eyed as the two bartenders took their shots as well. Vendetta's was a fun place to be tonight. 
Pictures from the day: 
Good morning from Vail, Colorado
On Vail Pass at the finish area pre-race:
cyclists arriving on the pass
Finish area
Finally the riders began to arrive roughly (very roughly) every 1 minute
David Zabriskie
Walter Fernando Moralies
Ted King
Jens Voigt
Timmy Duggan
Ivan Basso
(many more riders in here - that I will have to add later, time for sleep)

Frank Schleck
Cadel Evans
Levi Leipheimer
George Hincapie
Tejay was fast
For all of you who watched on TV and witness how close the fans were to the riders and cars, rest assured that this man earned the most effective rider jersey for the day. If any fan attempting to run alongside the racers dared to enter the final barrier zone, this man in the yellow volunteer vest swept them off the course with one big hook of the arm. He was never brash, simply effective. Those runners never knew what hit them, and the riders were safe. There needs to be some sort of Olympic event for his talent.
Fans in Vail Village at the Podium - I need to admit that I again used my French and cut onto the race route with my bike and walked up close to the stage.
Levi got a free ski pass to Vail - FOR LIFE! I thought it was funny to hear Levi apologizing to the crowd for cutting the corners so close on Vail Pass.
The 10th Mountain Division fan liked it
Evening concert in Vail Village
Tomorrow on to Steamboat Springs ...

Ride of the Day:
Partial Vail Pass climb Stage 3 - 20 miles rounds trip