23 August 2012

A Day at the Race on Independence Pass

A climb to 12095 ft (3687 m)
As if Cottonwood Pass at 12,126 feet (3,696 m) wasn't enough, the riders in Stage 3 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge had to climb over Independence Pass as well. In the words of the BMC team car driver who was stopped on the pass awaiting the last 40 or so riders in the autobus to come over the top - "it's hard."
Where are they?
Independence Pass from either side is a significant climb, and this year the riders will do both sides. Yesterday they tackled the east side (17.5 miles). Today they will turn around and ride back over the pass in the opposite direction (20 miles). I was one of those many fans who cycled their way to the top of the pass yesterday to dance to the loud music, laugh at wild costumes, and cheer the pros. 

But first I had to get myself up to the top. Let me tell you, this altitude stuff everyone is talking about is very real. The usual excitement carried me up the pass for the first 10 miles, then my body said wow this is an effort and I knew to sit in and relax, it wouldn't be over for quite some time. By the time I reached tree-line I could definitely feel the altitude, if trees couldn't grow up here, my muscles surely were feeling the effects of the high dry mountain pass. Yet I pedaled onward, visions (and memories from last year) of the fun at the top as my inspiration. I knew the climb would be worth it, and it was.  
Fortunately the scenery of Independence pass was majestic and wide-sweeping and kept me occupied, together with my fellow cycling fans who were friendly and entertaining, I felt just fine. I rode with a fun group of guys from Carbondale who knew the climb well. 
Today they climb the steeper side (click to enlarge)
Photos from the climb up from Aspen to Independence Pass (from my ride yesterday) ©Photos below by Karen at Pedal Dancer® (except the last one by Laurie Valaer)
Aspens in Aspen
Cycling Fans on their way to the top
"The Narrows"
These climbs are very doable with determination and time, next year - ride your bike
Looking down the west side of the climb
Arriving at the summit feeling the accomplishment
Were you one of these fans - at the top of Independence Pass for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge? Photos by Karen of Pedal Dancer® and deNavaille Photgraphique
BMC was throwing keychains to the crowd, these nice fans picked one up and gave it to me - I was thrilled (since I have a collection)
bikes, marshalls, fans, music and mountains
Add really loud music to this scene and you get the idea of what it was like on the pass
Fans of all ages were there
We stood at the top of the world waiting for a bike race
We formed a corridor of fans
Fans looked down the east side watching the helicopter, team cars and riders approach from far below
This is the view the riders see as they attempt to part the crowd of fans, would you have the nerve to race through this?
Entertainment from the fans before the race arrived
Other folks on the pass
Who let Ron Kiefel drive the car?
Kevin from BMC waited on the pass ready with water, food, jackets, and spare wheels
This is Larry a photo moto driver (who lost is photographer down the pass). He rode his bike from North Carolina and works all the races - ATOC, Tour of Utah, and USPCC. He is sometimes a Marhsall sometimes a photo moto, but he is certainly one of the many who make this race happen.
Even the (USF) US Forest Service was out on their bikes on the pass
Rider Photos from Stage 3
Tom Danielson
Francisco Jarley Colorado Hernandez (COL) of EPM-UNE earning his Most Aggressive Jersey (orange) for the day
Jens Voigt suffering
Peter Stetina
Devon Mannion
Peter Velits
By this point in the race after a super hard effort David Zabriskie was really hurting, it was written all over his face - that this race is hard!
This EPM-UNE rider encourage this young boy to run along with him the entire way to the KOM banner
The fans were so close to the riders
Zipping up for the downhill in Aspen after the KOM
The two vehicles fans always recognize but don't like to see - The Broom Wagon (read more about the broom wagon: Word of the day at the TDF: voiture balai) and the sign-in pick-up truck. They mean the race is over for today. 
Meanwhile down in the town of Aspen Tom Danielson took the stage win and Jens Voigt rolled into town.
Tom Danielson arrives alone in Aspen  ©Photo by Ron Long
With the chase group close behind him  ©Photo by Ron Long
Jens leading the way around the blocks of Aspen   ©Photo by Laurie Valaer
More of the Peloton chasing   ©Photo by Ron Long
Stage 3 of 7 and Cadel Evans looked so tired  ©Photo by Ron Long

Stage 3 Results from the desk of Nicole Okoneski of Rogers & Cowan
·         First Place – Tom Danielson (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
·         Second Place – Damiano Caruso (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
·         Third Place – Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek

·         Exergy Leader Jersey – Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
·         Waste Management Sprint Jersey – Damiano Caruso (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
·         Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey – Tom Danielson (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
·         Aquadraat Best Young Rider Jersey – Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) of Bontrager Livestrong Team
·         Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey – Francisco Jarley Colorado Hernandez (COL) of EPM-UNE

Visit the official race website at: www.ProChallenge.com
Keeping up with Training Peaks race analysis of the effort and power over the climb of Independence pass by 3 riders: http://bit.ly/REKqby