The USA Pro Cycling Challenge cyclists had a fitting sendoff Sunday morning when Golden put on a start party to be reckoned with. By the time the cyclists got to Denver it was a drum roll of activity. The circular course around Civic Center Park was a pinwheel of action. At times the peloton spun counter clockwise, while the breakaway group went clockwise, their paths paralleling on Colfax in front of the Denver Post.
Levi Leipheimer, Team RadioShack, calmly retained his position as the yellow jersey holder, as the attacks for the Stage 6 win fluctuated back and forth for the sprinter’s win. Leipheimer said it was one of the best wins of his career, winning the jersey, losing it and winning it back again. In the end, Daniel Oss, Liquigas-Cannondale took the Stage 6 win in the final seconds of the race. Elia Viviani, also of Liquigas-Cannondale took the second place finish for the stage.
The admiration for the competitors was evident on the faces of all the spectators, who ran as thick as 10 people deep all along the final course. Even Colorado Governor Hickenlooper was smitten. “These cyclists are a cross between hockey players who grew up rural Canada and cowboys with a strong sense of ethics, they stick together. They are wonderful kids. I think everyone of these kids is an inspiration in their own right,” said Hickenlooper.
Leipheimer and race planners will remember this race not only for the incredible last minute sprints but also for the incredible fan support. “The crowd today in Denver I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a bigger crowd in the United States.” When asked if he would come back next year, “Yes,” Leipheimer told NBC news. “You couldn’t pay me to stay away.”
“The way the jersey changed hands everyday, it was a battle tooth and nail,” said Leipheimer. “It is fantastic for us, as American cyclists to race on American soil. We’ve spent many years, decades in the trenches in Europe,” he said.
Jonathan Vaughters, a team Director for Garmin Cervelo, a former professional cyclist who was born a mile from Denver. “Today, was just like I dreamed about it. Never seen crowds as big as this outside of the Tour De France. Five-million people know the L’Alpe d’Huez because of Tour De France, if the race continues as it is, our ski areas, out towns will have the same name recognition
Cadel Evans, BMC Racing Team, said this will be his last race of the year, but that he will be back next year for the Colorado race. “Wow, everyone is really nice here. I want to come back. … That is not always the case,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable. The funnest race I’ve done and I am looking forward to coming back,” said TeJay Van Garderen, from HTC-Highroad.
Race officials said the event has the highest record for attendance for a US cycling event than any other event. Official numbers are not yet available, but the estimate is that it easily exceeds 1-million spectators. Race officials say Golden was the largest start of any they’ve ever seen in the North America and the finish in Denver was equally large with 6-10 people deep throughout the course. The bid process for next year’s cities will begin soon, and the planning will begin right away for 2012.
As the media was waiting for the end of race comments from winners, the chatter was about what next? How can Colorado improve an already successful first time race? Perhaps an mountain finish for the last stage—cool, but how easy to execute isn’t clear. Better television coverage—absolutely, all agree that Colorado proved itself as a new media cycling event. More local sponsors, like Colorado beers? The idea was posed to Governor Hickenlooper, the state’s most successful beer man. He mentioned New Belgian in Fort Collins as a good fit. Let’s toast to that idea.
All agreed that the event was a remarkable success, far exceeding any other first-time stateside cycling event. No doubt, Colorado loves its spokes and will look forward to next year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.
Quiznos Leader Jersey – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
· Nissan King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Rafael Montiel (COL) of Gobernacion de Antioquia
- 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 – Timothy Duggan (USA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
- First – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
- Second – Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Cervelo
- Third – Tejay Van Garderen (USA) of HTC-Highroad
Stage 6 Top-3
- First – Daniel Oss (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
- Second – Elia Viviani (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
· Third – “Fast” Freddie Rodriguez (USA) of Team Exergy