Meet Cindy. My cycling fiend- I mean friend. She is all about pro cycling. We watch the Tour de France every year, but in between, she watches all the other big races and knows every statistic and name out there. You could say it’s her passion, but it’s more like an obsession! Her husband, Mark, is very patient with her.
I had been bugging them to come out with me in my cool Road Trek Adventurous for a trip and she suggested we go out west last July to the Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. It is one of the biggest pro bicycle races in the U.S. with most of the big names competing. They ride an average of 100 miles a day, on several routes, through the mountains. It’s fun, we would get to see some pretty country and our favorite world class riders in person, plus it’s a lot cooler than Kansas City in mid summer.
Now, 3 adults in the RT are a bit much for me. Even though I have the handy extra sleeper beds that fit over the front and second row seats, we are all tall and it wouldn’t be comfy. So I threw in my tent and large cot for Mark, who at 60, had never camped a night in his life, and volunteered to give it a whirl. Cindy and I would share the bed set up twin style. Off we went.
It was great having my close friends for company and to share the driving. Our destination was Leadville, the highest town in the state and centrally situated for several legs of the race. It's an historic town with a couple of good little museums, a famous old opera house and fabulous scenery. We stayed at the Sugar Loafin’ Campgroud – walking distance from Tourquoise Lake, just outside of town.
We drove, early the next day, to a corner of Hwys 24 and 82, where the racers would whiz by us, on the way up a very steep mountain pass, along the route from Gunnison to the finish in Aspen. It was a great spot to set up my cameras and shoot as they came around the bend. We angled the van to face the race, in a small motel parking lot on the corner. We unfurled the canopy, got out the chairs, brie, crackers and cool drinks. We made a big JENS sign on the hood of the van with hot pink post-its I had, to honor Jens Voight, Cindy’s favorite rider. She also spent her time arranging rocks on the shoulder of the road to spell out his name for the helicopter cameras, which film the race from the air.
Fans cycled up the pass to wait at the top for the King of the Mountain sprint, and several set up at our corner. Cycling gets more popular every year in the US, but in Europe, it is a big, big deal. The routes will often be lined with spectators for miles, especially at the tops of big, steep climbs or at the ends of sprint sections, at starts and finishes and in towns. We met several people, many of whom came by for a tour of the van and a couple even asked to use the loo. There was plenty camaraderie and excitement.
The van was PERFECT for this! We had everything we needed for a long wait. Shade, food, power so we could watch our I-pads as the race was simulcast, and of course, a bathroom. Eventually, the leaders raced around the corner, and then the peloton (the main body of riders). Cindy swears that Jens looked right at her and our big pink sign as he came around the corner. We could have gone home right then and she'd have been satisfied.
But the next day’s route came right through Leadville, which was fun. We set up chairs right downtown and enjoyed local kids' races, food stalls, speeches and music before the riders zoomed through, Jens in the lead and going on to win the stage. Mrs. You Know Who was silly with glee.
We hit Breckenridge for day 3 and the start of the next stage. This time, we had seats in a private start line area. I got to meet several of the riders as they came by to sign autographs. Cindy got close to Jens (like meeting the Beatles for her- she cried and almost fainted) and I got to drool over handsome Big George Hincapie, my favorite. This was George’s last race ever as he was retiring. Breckenridge was decked out, and thousands of people stayed all day, watching the race on a huge screen in a park, wandering around booths, and watching the trick cycling events. It was a great fun.
We took a day off then headed to Denver for the final stage of individual time trials. We had tickets situated at the start and finish, which were conveniently next to each other! There were giant screens so we could hear and watch each rider after they left the starting gate and before they crossed the line. Talk about a charged atmosphere! The entire area around the capitol was roped off, streets were closed and there were bands, vendors and huge crowds. We got to see the busses come in, riders warm up, watch them come out of the chute, finish and see the trophies awarded. Christian Vande Velde won and Big George had a nice send off.
Traveling in the RT was a perfect choice for this event. Driving downtown Denver and the airport (Cindy had to get back to work for a meeting) was a snap and it was perfect for day camping along the routes. I can’t tell you how many tours I gave. During the Tour de France, there isn’t an RV to be rented anywhere in Europe. They line the routes for each stage and you can see every type, but most are the smaller, more maneuverable vehicles, which can be easily parked and are able climb those high passes with ease. I get it!
Thanks, Cindy, for suggesting such a fun trip. Mark now brags about roughing it the old fashioned way. Me? I'm sticking to the Roadftrek. It's cold up there in Leadville at night, even in July!
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