I was at the start in Steamboat Springs where I picked up my press pass. I watched the start then drove the race route behind the caravan into Silverthorne. I saw the race come by at the junction of Green Mountain reservoir and Hwy 9. I then traveled to the finished in Breckenridge.
My day as a fan:
Think about it, if we attended a football game, we would all see the exact same plays at the same time. Our experience would differ only by the number of beers we drank or hotdogs we ate, and maybe which obnoxious fan was nearby, and the level at which we sat in the stands. In cycling the athletes are the same but every fan sees the game from an entirely different perspective and moment in time along the route. This is why you can chase Tours for years as a fan and never think you have seen it all.
Today I cemented the fact that I love being a fan. I had a dream come true today when I picked up my approved press pass in Steamboat Springs at the start of Stage 5. At first I tucked it away and played fan, collecting more signatures on my Colorado State cycling jersey. I got David Zabriskie, Tommy Danielson, Timmy Duggan, and Ted King. I then looked back and gave the fan behind me my spot near the railing. It was time to use the pass.
I had such a wonderful time trying to capture the story of the fans getting signatures on Autograph Alley. From the inside near the start line, I looked mostly at the fans and less at the riders, a complete reversal of my usual role on the other side of the barriers. I was happy to see the riders being courteous and the fans having so much fun.
Shortly before the race started I returned to the place where I feel best, 3-4 deep in the line of energetic fans at the barriers, yelling and lifting their cameras high to take photos. I thought, from now on I will always appreciate the sight of someone else's camera in my photo. It means that I am with my people, enjoying the sport that I love so much, with others who love is just as much.
Notice how Basso is all alone, that orange rope is the start line.
Basso stayed there until Vladimir Efimkin rode by and said, "hey Ivan you want to go ride?" and off they rode until the official start. Actually Basso went back and chatted with Levi. I wonder what they were talking about?
Fans I met:
I chatted with Frankie Andreu today at the finish in Breckenridge. As you may have read during my Tour de France posts last July, I was a big ol' fan of Tour Talk with Frankie and James Startt on Bicycling.com. Their banter was a welcome relief from the oft boring sports interview. Frankie is involved in a series at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge called Race Radio. Today when I spoke with him, he enthusiastically recalled the Stage 4 cowboy video. Watch the series, they are entertaining and out of the ordinary for typical race coverage.
USA Pro Cycling Challenge: Stage 5 Race Radio
Race Radio: USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 4
USA Pro Cycling Challenge: Race Radio Stage 3
Race Radio: USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 2
|I am being a fan and getting a signature by Tommy D|
|My fan shot of the Liquigas-Cannondale team signing-in|
|This was the action in autograph alley when Levi and the Bissell boys came through|
|You'll also see riders having a chat with friends along the barrier, this one was in VIP tent|
|Levi is signing the kids tshirts, they were thrilled|
|Fans in Autograph Alley. Bring anything - a tshirt, jersey, photos, magazine ......|
|... but remember the pen! The fans with Oscar Sevilla. Look at all the smiles.|
|Happy fans in Steamboat Springs, a great crowd|
|The fans know who Laurens ten Dam is after the Tour of California and the Tour de France this year|
|Team Leader Andrès Miguel Diaz Corrales and the Exergy Team sign autographs|
|the riders are in high demand|
|Rory Sutherland signing autographs for fans|
|Rory Sutherland and a fan|
|more Rory and a TDF fan|
|George Hincapie is very popular!|
|Ivan Basso and Levi Leipheimer|
|Frank Schleck in a sea of fans. Andy was over to the left|
|Start USPCC Sreamboat Springs 2011|
|that's all folks, ride off into the sunset ... (this horse has 6 legs)|
After grabbing a slice of pizza and a cold drink, I decided to go for it and headed down the race route to Breckenridge. The ride was smooth and easy and I was thankful for the local ranch truck ahead of my small group of drivers going the speed limit entering Kremmling, because Lord knows I do not. Suddenly I saw flashing lights up the road and realized I was maybe 15 cars behind the race.
|The Peloton heads south down Hwy 9|
Fans lined the road along Hwy 9
The crowds were huge in Breckenridge with an excellent turnout on a Saturday.
|The expo festival area in Breckenridge|
|USPCC VIP tent in Breckenridge|
Stage 6, Golden to Denver is tomorrow
Now that I have my prized media pass, people are asking what I will do on my last day - volunteer!
I committed myself to giving the last day of this Tour as a volunteer and I intend to keep that commitment. However small my duty, I will do whatever I can to ensure this race continues here in Colorado. Besides as I stated above - every stage is different - and this will certainly be different. Plus I still get to see the fans enjoying themselves. Especially with me pouring alcohol.
Denver get ready for one massive event tomorrow.