Part of the fun of going to any sporting event, besides the thrill of competition and the exciting surroundings, are the people. We have our favorite riders, our favorite teams, our favorite uniforms (team kits), and our favorite bikes. Behind, on top of, and in front of all this, are the wonderful people who make the race and set the mood - not only through organization or sponsorship, but simply by showing up.
We attend because we are fans of cycling and no matter our real job or personal life - the field of sport is a great leveler. We come together in shared passion. And what makes cycling unique is that we get to play and cheer on the playing field.
I always try to take a moment to speak to the person next to me, because every individual I meet at a bike race has a story about what motivated them to come.
I will forever remember a man I met at a race standing near the RadioShack team bus who was in the middle of telling me that he had been waiting ten years to meet Jens Voigt, and just then Jensie arrived right next to us in the passenger seat of his team car. "Well there he is right there, " I said to the fan. Well that fan pivoted with elation and I am telling you - the joy that fan felt spread through the entire crowd that day at the race.
I recently wrote a post about the Organization Behind the Race at the USA Pro Challenge, a story about the Founders, Partners, and hard working staff. A short while ago I also wrote That's my kid!, a post about the pride and support of parents for a young athlete. Today I looked back through my photographs for the people I met or saw last year at the USA Pro Challenge. Maybe I will see them again this year, maybe you will.
Look closely - you just might be able to see these faces in the crowd ...
All Photos below by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer® from the 2012 USA Pro Challenge
Eric Heiden, Olympian, author, and team doctor for BMC
Olympian and bike shop owner Ron Kiefel driving Dale Stetina (Peter's Father and himself an Olympian and former National Champion) in the back seat of the car
Davis Phinney (left), Olypian, former 7-Eleven teammate of Ron's and father to Taylor Phinney (BMC - not racing at the USA Pro Challenge this year)
Actor Patrick Dempsey, just hanging out at the race with Race Director Jim Birrell.
Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn presented the podium awards in Denver to Christian VandeVelde
George Hincapie, he will be back and leading a ride before the Breckenridge Stage this year.
Race Announcer Brad Sohner and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (more about Brad, read: Who is that voice on stage?)
Former Colorado Governor John Ritter
Uli and Lydia - organizers of the Frand Fondo New York
Scott Christopher (of Bicycle Colorado and cast member of the movie American Flyers, left), speaking with Race Announcer Dave Towle (right).
Dan Grunig, Executive Director of Bicycle Colorado enjoying some VIP tent action
Tim Johnson, cyclocross racer extraordinaire
Jim Ochowicz General Manager of BMC
Dirk Friel and Jeremey Derksen of Training Peaks
Bob Roll, NBC Commentator
Neal Rogers of VeloNews
Brian Holcombe of VeloNews, pushing Peter Stetina
Frankie Andreu of Bicycling and Kenda/5-hour Energy
Author and race analyst Joe Lindsey of Bicycling Magazine and the Boulder Report
Neil Browne of Tour Chats and Brown Eye Blog
Just some of the many photographers
Photographer Darrell Parks with Pez Cycling (right)
Photographer John Pierce of PhotoSport International
Definitely stop by the Festival (expo) to see the crews helping out at the sponsor and vendor tents
I heard that Mario Cipollini was in the VIP tent in Denver last year - but of course, I missed him!
I will be there again this year. I will keep you up-to-date on who I see at the race. I will be chasing and reporting from every stage except Steamboat Springs. Posting results and travel/fan stories from the road, but probably not racing as I did last weekend.
See you in Aspen, or Breck, Beaver Creek, Vail, Loveland or Denver.