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The USA Pro Cycling Challenge continues to amaze and impress. The staff of Rapha North America went to the race again this year with a number of objectives: to bring delicious La Colombe coffee to the masses via our large, grey Mobile Cycle Club; to ride and explore the amazing state of Colorado; and, finally, to support the recently crowned Tour de France champions, Team Sky. With these targets in mind, we headed off into the Rockies to see what the race could bring.
The first stage in the sleepy town of Aspen, with its wide streets and quaint downtown, made for an idyllic start to the USA’s premiere road race. The MCC was set up for no more than 20 minutes when the Team Sky bus rolled in through the tape and proceeded to unload its contents. Richie Porte, Ian Boswell and Joe Dombrowski spilled out and the crowds, who had been previously awestruck by our espresso pours, were treated to the boys in black and blue.
Maroon Bells, the steep climb just out of Aspen is one of the most photographed spots in all of Colorado. At least, that’s what the locals tell you. It may or may not be true, but once you have made it up there you will easily see what they are on about. We headed up here in what would be the first of a few late-afternoon or early-morning rides. It is just as important as cleaning your portafilter or oiling your chain, these rides helped us shake out the cobwebs each day.
There is something about Colorado, and we tried to define it as we went. The sky seems larger, the clouds fluffier. Every turn of the road, whether driving or riding a bicycle, opens up to reveal a new peak jutting from the land, or a series of trails just off the road, inviting exploration. Sometimes the invitation was hard to resist.
And this was before the peloton came whizzing through. The roads were painted — unlike our unlucky Tour of Britain counterparts, the local sheriff had no problems with our musings — and then the riders slid by without nary a thought as to what was on the road. Although, thinking back it could have been the attack from Mick Rogers that was fueling their pace and inability to notice their surroundings. Hang on Timmy Duggan, you’re almost there!
It continued to be these stars — and rising stars — of the sport that held the rapt attention of any cycling fan for miles around. Jens Voigt was in all his glory, spouting one liners and standing in line with fans to wait for coffee. Days earlier he was off the front, delighting everyone with the prospect of a stage win, then, waiting with the rest of us. The man is full of boundless energy for all who approach, including Rapha’s North American Head of Customer Service, Timothy Coghlan. He would be spotted later in the week riding next to Chris Froome. That itself should stand as a testament to those who desire to see this race. We couldn’t do this without them. They wouldn’t be here without us. There is no better place to be a fan of the sport than Colorado while the USA Pro Challenge is happening.
Then, after we doled out all the coffee and rode through Denver, led by the fabulous Alchemy Bicycles and local ride leader Meredith Miller, it was over. Just like that, it happens every time. You ride through the mountains and try to make as many friends as possible.
We did ride with Chris Froome and co. one day and one day only. The Pro Challenge had just concluded and we were lucky enough to take a spin and enjoy the sunshine one last time before heading towards home. After turning down one road, just outside of Boulder, it was apparent that we were about to hit some of that soft, loamy gravel the area is known for. You know, the stuff that looks so perfectly formed that it belongs more on the top of your Aunt’s apple crumble than on the road. There was some nervousness in the bunch, that we would dare force the winner of the Tour onto this terrain. It was mentioned and this was his reply, complete with grin: “Well, it looks like we’re going to have to clean some bikes today.”