Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Tour in Aspen

Just a note:  this has nothing to do with Paleo, it's about my hobby of watching pro cycling

A circus in the form of a professional bicycle race rolled into town today.  Well, last night actually.  The USA Pro Cycling Challenge finished here today and also departs from Aspen in the morning.  We're the only town acting as both a finishing and starting point in this years race so it's making things a bit more interesting.

Looking West toward the finish line

First, town is almost unnavigable by car.  We don't have a very big town to begin with.  Actually, I'd say it's down right small.  So when you block off major sections of it, including most of Main St., well, things get gummed up in a hurry.  It started the night before as they needed to put barriers up in advance.  Check out the photos of Main St. I took earlier in the day.  It may be hard to see, but three quarters of it is blocked off (for 2 days).  Good thing I ride my bike into work :)

Looking East
Second, all of the riders and staff are staying in town tonight.  Last year they finished here, but started the next day in Vail, so they skedaddled out of town pretty quickly.  And that's exactly what they'll be doing in all of the other finishing towns in this years race as well.

Because of the overnight stay, this evening I rode into town to see if things were hopping.  Not so much.  There was live music in the park and a fair amount of people dining out, but downtown felt very eerie.  Especially the streets.  You see, they are still blocked off so there is no traffic, and all of the team vehicles and buses from the race are parked throughout the core.  But there is nothing going on right now.  All of the riders and staff are in the hotels eating, getting massages and turning in early.  Tomorrow morning should be a different story as I expect a beehive of activity as the teams get prepared for the days racing.  The riders will be warming up (it's uphill right off the bat) and meeting in the team buses to go over strategy.  The mechanics will be tuning up the bikes and prepping the cars.  The official start time isn't until 11:35 so I'll just take a break form work tp head up there and check it out.

Last year I rode up to the top of Independence Pass to see the race go by as they headed into town.  It was a blast and the atmosphere up there was a riot.  Hard to describe though.  Think along the lines of a great Halloween party.  Anyway, the weather turned sour just as the riders started the descent and the organizers were unable to provide pics or video of the race as it headed down the pass into town, which was a bummer for me because I know every inch of that road and was looking forward to seeing the pros take it on.  It was also a bummer because me and a thousand of my close cycling friends had to ride back down the pass in the rain.  Oh well.  This year, however, the weather held out and we got some great footage of the riders tackling Independence pass.

Chicks racing bikes ... yes please
So today I stayed in town to watch the race.  I totally missed all of the activity that preceded the finish last year ... like the pro women's criterium that started at noon thirty.  A criterium is a closed circuit race in a city center that finishes in a set amount of time (an hour in this case) as opposed to a point to point race.  The women just swooped around town at high speeds in a big loop.  It was fun to watch.

Also, there were a bunch of cycling related kiosks around with swag and gear to show off.  It was basically a mini carnival of sponsors that travel around with the race, setting up at each finishing town.

I do love to watch cycling and it's awesome that a pro race has come to us here in the middle of the Rocky Mountains twice now.  Who knows if we'll be on next years route, but either way it's fun to see cycling up close and personal.
Cadel Evans riding through town

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