Steamboat installed a plush yellow shag carpet today as Elia Viviani of Team Liquigas-Cannondale, the stage winner, and Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack, the Stage 3 and Stage 4 yellow jersey holder, crossed the finish line. Fans lined the course and hung on every word as they watched from the big screens and listened to the announcers play by play that was piped into the town center. Today was a day for speed and as the sprinters jossled for the lead spots. As each sprinter vied for today’s title jerseys, the crowd exploded when they heard the play by play. Fans crowded the street and brave youth stood on hot roofs of Steamboat’s merchants to get a bird’s eye view of Leipeheimer and Viviani cross the finish line.
Even after the race was finished, Steamboat didn’t want the party to end. As Levi Leipheimer cut a short route back to his team truck, fans jogged behind, clapped, whistled and cheered the yellow jersey holder until he was long out of site.
Steamboat proved itself today as the true Biketown USA. It is the only city on the tour with a Stage 4 Finish Line and the Stage 5 Start line, which may account for the excitement and over the top number of events. The town even managed to schedule a US Paracycling Challenge, a time trial of cyclists of various abilities, on the same day as Stage 4.
The city was also awash in bikes of all types. Cruisers tied to trees, sleek road bikes leaning on bronzed statues and hefty mountain bikes serving as lawn ornaments on the courthouse green. Local band Loose Change played along the festival route.
Families took advantage of Lincoln Avenue food vendors including Smashburger, Chocolate Soup, Yesella Handmade Ice Cream and Sorbet and Ban-Nom-a-Nom, with a great new frozen banana concoction that tastes just like ice cream. They are setting up shop in Fort Collins soon. Cycling fans partied long into the evening starting with a sunset Happy Hour at the top of the Gondola, followed by a free evening concert by the Subdudes and starlit fireworks.
Steamboat even drank all the Sierra Nevada kegs dry by 4:30 in the afternoon. There were still no local beer vendors, maybe next year. Will there be a next year? Before the jerseys were presented, Steamboat city officials declared from the podium and that yes Coloradans, there is a cycling Santa Claus. And he will be back next summer for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. So get your bikes tuned up and make your hotel reservations now. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s finish in Breckenridge.
Here are the Stage 4 winners:
- 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 – Alexander Efimkin (RUS) of Team Type 1-sanofi
Stage 4 Top-3
- First – Elia Viviani (ITA) of Liquigas Cannondale
- Second – Michael Morkov (DEN) of Saxo Bank SunGard
- Third – Kenny Van Hummel (NED) of Skil-Shimano