Just minutes after Italian Elia Viviani of Liquigas Cannondale crossed the finish line to win Stage Five of the US Pro Cycling Race, one of the closest races seen in US Cycling history, race officials announced that the race is here to stay. “This is the first edition of the race,” said Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), “and we knew that there was a lot of support for cycling in Colorado, but the massive crowds were that of the Tour de France.” McQuaid said that cycling is entering a gold era. “There is no [Greg] LeMond, no [Lance] Armstrong, yet the crowds are supporting racers from all teams and all nationalities.”
While there is no official number, the speculation is that by tomorrow the crowd numbers will exceed one million spectators. Breckenridge crowds outnumbered an impressive showing from Steamboat in Stage Four. “The crowds keep getting bigger,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of USA Pro Cycling Challenge. “We are extremely humbled by the passion of the crowds. Tomorrow will be big and scary and we are looking forward to it.” Tomorrow, NBC will televise the race nationally for two hours, which is a first for a US-based cycling race.
Crowd control and race etiquette is essential for success of tomorrow’s race, say race planners. Race officials are asking spectators to be keenly aware and cautious of the racers as they pass by so as not to interfere. An incident of zealous spectators caused a support motorcycle to overturn on Independence Pass during Stage 2. Race officials want to avoid a similar situation tomorrow.
The Stage Six course on Lookout Mountain is promising to be a crowd pleaser, especially since Tommy Danielson, from Boulder and on Team Garmin-Cervello, holds the speed record for the Lookout Mountain hill climb (2006, 16:02)
The cyclists report being equally surprised by the crowds and the racecourse. Andy Schleck, of team Leopard Trek, took a risk and broke from the peloton at Swan Mountain, about 6K from the finish, but he couldn’t hold the lead. “I gambled too much,” Schleck said. Schleck compared cycling in Colorado mountains to racing in slow motion. “I didn’t know about the altitude,” he said. “It’s the altitude that makes us suffer, but the climbs were not as hard as I expected.”
Levi Leipheimer, who secured the yellow jersey for one more stage, patiently held back and let Schleck and other racers forge ahead at Swan Mountain. If all goes as planned Leipheimer will retain the jersey for the race win into Denver tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s race begins at 10:45am in Golden, and loops through the town three times and climbs Lookout Mountain before heading to Denver. Golden has been celebrating the cyclists’ arrival for the past three days and promises a good party scene. The City of Golden has created a special website exclusive to this weekend. Find information such as the race route through Golden and special events at procyclinggolden.com.
- Quiznos Leader Jersey – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
· Nissan King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Walter Pedraza Morales (COL) of UNE-EPM
- Smashburger Sprint Jersey – Elia Viviani (ITA) of Liquigas Cannondale
- Sheets Best Young Rider’s Jersey – Tejay Van Garderen (USA) of HTC-Highroad
· Exergy Most Aggressive Jersey – Andy Schleck (LUX) of Team Leopard-Trek
Stage 5 Top-3
- First – Elia Viviani (ITA) of Liquigas Cannondale
- Second – Jaime Castaneda (COL) of UNE-EPM
- Third – Daniel Oss (ITA) of Liquigas Cannondale