– Words by Travis Dixon, photos by Angelica Dixon –
The fourth edition of the USA Pro Challenge began today in Aspen Colorado, a city that’s been part of the race since its inception and it’s easy to see why. We arrived several hours prior to the start expecting to find the streets empty but no, Aspen was already gearing up for a great day of racing.
The city park was dedicated to the vendors and sponsors of the race., but it wasn’t enough room as the scene spilled over into the side streets. Well before noon the beer was flowing with a DJ ‘pumping out the jams’, the festivities were in full swing.
As the team buses arrived fans began looking for their favorite riders. Colorado will clearly miss Jens Voigt, who is riding out his last season in the pro peloton.
Cannondale set up Ted ‘Grizzly Bear’ King’s custom Cannondale for the crowd to enjoy.
Luis Amaran, of Jamis-Hagens Berman, needed some reminders to the challenges out on the circuit today.
Taylor Phinney was kitted up, but no race number for him yet. Being a Colorado native, he was out supporting his team and getting in some miles as he begins his comeback from a fractured femur.
UHC had their beautiful Willier bikes on display. Shimano’s proprietary cameras were mounted on the handle bars and saddles of several of their bikes, to give TV viewers a good idea of life in the peloton. Pioneer power meters were also on display. Bryson Ross of UHC had this to say about the units, “Riders really like the leg to leg read outs. It’s like riding with a coach as they can correct their pedal stroke immediately.”
Even the riders have their heroes as Ted King gets his photo taken with Davis Phinney.
It was a nice to see that not just us adults get excited for bike racing, but the kids do too. The riders were more than willing to give out autographs to the massive crowd.
Tinkoff-Saxo brought a stout team and crowd pleasers such as Rafal Majka and Mick Rogers.
We met with Michael Creed, director of the incredibly successful Team SmartStop. Creed is a native of Colorado Springs and was still tearing up the pro circuit last year. He offered, “it’s great to race on the roads that I cut my teeth on, it means a great deal. But just because we are in my state and will finish in my home town, I can’t put that on the guys. But I did tell them this morning that if anyone won in my town that I would give them my house.”
Even pint size Cujo was ready for race day!