18 August 2012

In Durango

And the race news has started
I am in Durango, Colorado, blogging from the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Sharing stories from what it is like chasing the race for the entire week as a fan. So far - it is grand. 

I am in cowboy country and found myself listening to country western music on the drive southwest yesterday from Denver. I couldn't help myself, by weeks-end I'll be talking like a cowboy and wearing a cowboy hat. I know I live here, but still this state is amazing. I walked the streets of Durango (I love that phrase) last night with Dan and Scott from Bicycle Colorado. I stopped them at a picturesque corner and said, "Look at this, can you imagine the riders from Italy walking down this street, they must feel like they are in a Western movie." Durango is a cool, very friendly town. We strolled as bluegrass music filled the air and boisterous people spilled out from art galleries, restaurants and bars. I am happy to be here. 

we already have news from the race and it hasn't even started yet:
  • Andy Schleck will not be racing, he is still healing from a fractured pelvis which gives him pain on long rides. (Schleck out of USA Pro Challenge)
  • Timmy Duggan is changing teams for 2013. Timmy will be switching from Liquigas-Cannondale to Canada’s SpiderTech-C10 in 2013. Timmy is our current American road race champion andwe've all heard stories about how he took that title with little support from his Italian team. (US Pro champion Timmy Duggan to ride for SpiderTech-C10 in 2013)
  • Vincenzo Nibali who we will also see riding at the USA Pro Challenge for Liquigas-Cannondale will be moving teams to Astana in 2013 (Nibali signs two-year contract with Astana). Jacob Fuglsang will also move to Astana from team Radioshack-Nissan-Trek.

“Not to save my life I could name one city from last year’s tour of Colorado. I just go: Erase and rewind.” ~ Jens Voigt
Don't take this quote in VeloNews.com personally Colorado, Jens is like this in Europe as well. He may notice every tactical detail inside the race, but can't remember where he was or where he is going.

Laughs from the day
I am tent camping at the private United Campground, which is anything but roughing it, as I sit here on the green grass at my clean picnic table drinking a cup of hot coffee, typing on my laptop and waiting for the Durango-Silverton train to come rolling at any minute. The sun is out, it is a beautiful day in Durango, Colorado.
When I strolled up to get that morning cup of coffee, I started up a conversation with the owner of the campground, they were expecting a big weekend with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the Pro Challenge Experience, and the Rail Fest all going on in Durango at the same time. I said to the owner,  "You wouldn't believe how fast they ride on a bike." "And steady," he added in his thick accent, "Shoot, one time I rode a bike, I rode fifteeeeen miiiles, den I put dat bike down, and den I sold that bike!"
As I walked back to my tent site still chuckling, I started chatting with two mountain bikers in the campsite next to mine. "Are you here to photograph the trains or the bike race," they asked me, "Well the bike race, but the trains add atmosphere to this town," I answered. One mountain biker commented, "I saw Tom (Tommy Danielson) riding through town yesterday, man he was going maybe 24mph with one hand on the handlebar, just talking to the guy next to him." We all shook our heads in amazement and gave a moment of silent praise. "Ya, but they don't get to eat pizza," I said. "Ya, but what is worse is the guy at the back who is suffering, who never makes it big, doesn't get to eat pizza either," the mountain biker added. So true. 

Stories from the road

As I drove from Denver to Durango yesterday I passed through Pagosa Springs, where a large sign hung "Welcome Cycling Enthusiasts" affirming I was heading in the right direction - West to Durango. I came upon snow, or compacted hail (graupel) just before Wolf Creek Pass - brrrr cold. The BMC team bus was parked at the summit of the pass, I had seen them earlier in Del Norte, CO. We were all headed west.
On the other side of Wolf Creek Pass, there is a chunk of land called "The Land of Many Uses" it ranks right up there as one of the most magnificent places on this earth. It is spectacular. "As I descended off of Wolf Creek pass I thought, this puts the Tourmalet to shame and almost the Rocky Mountain National Park. The folks who own the ranches in that valley have bought a piece of heaven. I should have stopped to hike to Treasure Falls (only 1/4 miles off the highway) it looked like it would be a nice break from the car drive although I still wasn't tired of the country music.

The train just passed by my campsite!
Durango is known for it's old-fashioned Durango-Silverton narrow-gauge railroad train that runs from town to town up the Million Dollar Highway. It is fun for tourists. I rode the train back to Durango after a hiking/rock climbing trip into the Weminuche Wilderness years ago. We were miles from a road, and the train stopped at a small white sign, the Conductor greeted us and threw our packs in the cargo hold, I thought he was going to throw us in the cargo-hold as well (after 5-days of climbing), but nop, we found ourselves eating fresh popcorn and enjoying the incredible views from the open-air train car. It takes all day to go up and back, and costs from $89-$179, $49 for kids (train schedule).

Photos from the road - Day 1 in Durango
The face of modern camping - laptops and beer
Railroads and the west
A nice place to stay
Bluegrass in the streets of Durango on Friday night
Locals were in the Irish Bar have a roller-off
Narrow-gauge tracks in the morning sun