29 August 2011

Positive comments about the race

Press Conference after the USA Pro Cycling Challenge 
I wanted to share some of the comments made by the riders and organizers at the final press conference after the stage finish in Denver yesterday. First I'd like to mention that the common theme of the conference was the impressive showing of fans throughout the week of racing. I strongly feel that fan turnout lent credibility to this first year event. You should all be proud, as fans, that you played a part in showing off Colorado in such a positive light to the world.

Those who attended the press conference in the Denver Post building, where Cadel Evans, Shawn Hunter (Race Organizer), Jim Birrel (Race Director), Jonathan Vaughters and Christian VandeVelde (representing their team who won best overall team), Levi Leipheimer (Leader), Rafael Montiel (best climber), TeJay VanGarderen (best young rider), and Timmy Duggan (most aggressive rider - stage 6). Daniel Oss (the stage winner) did not attend, nor did Elia Viviani (best sprinter), but I heard later from a fan, that Viviani was at the Festival Expo in Civic Center Park at the Cannondale vendor booth signing autographs after the race. 

At press conferences, a moderator first asks questions of each rider on the panel in the front. Today's guests were the overall final jersey winners for 2011. After each jersey winner spoke, questions were opened to the journalists in the audience. These journalists represent national and local newspapers, trade magazines, and other forms of media. 
Cadel Evans: When asked his impression of this first year event, Cadel responded, "timing, great weather, great racing." "I hope it was good for everyone." He added, "So many people said thank you for coming to Colorado." "I really want to come back because everyone is so nice to me ... sometimes, I don't want to come back." Laughter followed. He mentioned that there is an ambiance that a race creates, although this race was "very very competitive." When asked about his switch from mountain biking to road cycling, he listed his palmares through the transition and said, "the attention on the road is far greater in the public eye."
Shawn Hunter: Reported that he had traveled with two members of the UCI (international governing body for cycling) along the route today, impressed with the number of fans, they all agreed that this was the "largest spectator crowd in the history of American cycling." He was then asked if the race would return next year, Hunter drew back as if shocked that he had to explain of course it will be back. He felt the finish belonged in Denver, but the Host Cities might change for 2012. He shared that he and Jim Birrel drove over 500 miles of the course together talking in the car constantly about route options for next year.
Jim Birrel: Gave an expressive thank you to all those involved in the race.  
Levi Leipheimer: When asked to compare the USA Pro Cycling Challenge to the Tour of California, Levi said the "crowds were bigger than even his hometown of Santa Rosa." He also explained he felt his win required some of the best form of his career, and he "didn't expect this race to be so Grand, to be in their fighting tooth and nail." Levi offered the quote, "racing is 90% mental, and the body follows the mind."
Tejay Van Garderen: When asked about his experience at the race, Tejay explained it was "most exciting because of the changes in the jerseys." He also mentioned the large crowds, atmosphere, and level of competition. He said the race exceeded his expectations, and it was one of the "funnest races." He is looking forward to coming back.
Christian Van de Velde: Mentioned that "no one knew what would happen at this race." He and Levi and others had "talked about it at the Tour de France." He then made the press laugh by saying, "I had a lot of bridesmaid positions this week ... hard to swallow." Christian described Danny Summerhill as, "the kid was terrified,"in reference to having the responsibility of the entire team behind him. He explained his reaction to Levi winning on Vail Pass during Stage 3, after he personally gave such a strong effort, "getting to the top of Vail Pass and seeing Levi had the same time, I thought, I don't know, is that right? And he's got the free Vail (ski) Pass for Life - I don't know." Laughter followed again as Levi added, "and that is non-transferable."
Timmy Duggan: Timmy who rides with the Liquigas-Cannondale team and wearing the most agressive rider jersey for the final stage, explained when "it didn't work out for Basso and me, we decided to focus at the end of the week on our Sprinters Viviani and Oss."
Jonathan Vaughters: "Overall I've never seen crowds as consistently big in any other race except the Tour de France. At the starts, on the roads, at the finish. Plus the enthusiasm. I'm incredibly proud of this state, incredibly proud of this race." 
Near the completion of the press conference, a journalist behind me asked the entire panel, "What advice would you give to young children?" There was a pause, someone said "Tejay". After the laughter subsided another pause until Levi finally said, "Are we giving advice to Tejay?" Tejay then spoke up in response directly to Levi saying, "I want to be just like you, keep at it." Jonathan Vaughters then chimed in adding, "and if you keep at it, and get fast, please send me your resume."

(L-R) Jim Birrel, Jonathan Vaughters, Rafael Montiel, Tejay Van Garderen, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Van deVelde, Timmy Duggan, Shawn Hunter

A Radioshack staff member holds the winner's trophy for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge