On the road with the US Pro Challenge and the Mile-High City
Since our spot was also pretty well situated on the last stretch into town, as race sponsors went by, they would stop as they saw us and would pass out free swag. Socks, shirts, cow bells, bags, etc. To quote my uncle, "if it's free, it's for me!" Moots holds a singular and unique place in the bicycling world: every single person who rides bikes loves Moots. I don't care if you're a casual weekend worrier or ex-pro, you just love Moots, the company, the bikes, and the people. It was really neat to see the outpouring of affection complete strangers had towards the Moots van and crew, including other bike companies. Witnessing all of this only solidified the validity of my bike frame purchase. Even though it was really expensive. It was well worth it. (No, I wasn't paid by Moots to say all that.)
Finally the race went by in all its glory. I had never been so close to a pro peleton before and feeling the "woosh" of air hit you as they ride by en masse was a memorable experience. Those pro riders are very, very fast. In retrospect, it's a little silly to wait a while day to see a race and then have it completely pass you by in less than a minute. The novelty definitely outweighs any silliness aspects though. I would certainly do it again.
A time-trial is a solo race against the clock. Each rider rides the same course (in this case, it was a 10mi stretch of paved pathway up a mountain) and whoever has the lowest time, wins. Its usually a day for the top competitors to distance themselves from the field.
We found an empty parking lot a few miles uphill from the finish of the time-trial stage and asked a group of park rangers if we could park and camp there overnight. They didn't seem to mind, so that's exactly what we did. We pitched the tents, chowed down, walked the dogs and met our parking lot neighbor, an interesting lawyer fellow camping in a tiny Toyota pick-up camper van who had been riding bikes for several decades and loved seeing the race. Maven and Sombra kept trying to sneak into his camper but never succeeded.
As night fell, it got very cold, very fast on top of the mountain. After the sun went down, we watched as a huge storm came our way that brought lots of lightning, wind, rain, and ultimately hail along with it. It was awesome to watch from the relative warmth and safety of the van and after a while, we all dozed off. Finally it passed and I got tired of being cold and cramped up in the front seat of the van, so I braved the elements and dove into my tent and into my sleeping bag. I was the only one. Jason, Ned and the dogs holed up inside the van. Not a terrible idea, as Ned's tent fared pretty bad that night. It got soaked inside and out and even had a few hail stones end up passing through the roof somehow.
After our extended feast, we packed up some essentials and rode down the mountain path to the finish line of the TT course where we set up the giant Moots banner and put on sunscreen. It was bright up there on the mountain! It was neat to see this kind of event because you get to see each rider in turn which makes getting there and dealing with the crazy of the race even more worthwhile than it is normally! The local favorite and local Colorado-an, T.J. VanGarderen cranked out a huge effort and naturally got huge support from the crowd. The other favs were Sagen though he wasn't fast, and Jens Voigt, the perennial crowd favorite and all around good guy.
I was tasked with taking the Moots banner back as well and this time I strapped it to my top tube and had it protruding out the front of my bike like a jousting rod. It made riding up the path rather difficult, especially in flip flops and the incoming rain and cold. BUT I persevered and managed to pass a whole bunch of people, including Ned and Jason. Jason did catch up at the end but I think it took a rather herculean effort on his part... =)
Originally it was a switchback halfway up the climb. We had passed a couple other cars on the way down to where we parked and in figuring out what to do to stay occupied that night, we hiked back up the road to the next switch back to hang out with the other would-be spectators. After a few beers and warming up by their fire, Jason wandered back down the hill and drove the van up to where we were hanging out. A much better place it turned out. Through the night, a smattering of other cars showed up as people arrived before the roads got shut down in the morning. The rain made setting up a tent interesting because the water running down the hill created shifting gullies in the sandy dirt. Fortunately I found a spot that fared pretty well overnight.
The morning came quicker than I would have liked but it wasn't really that big a deal. I did have to use the bathroom pretty bad though and the only place to do so were the port-a-potties way up the road at the KOM (King Of the Mountain) line. Walking was uncomfortable but I knew riding would have been worse, so I walked. Afterwords, Jason and I hopped on our bikes and rode down the hill to do the step, twisty climb all the way to the top and then around on some dirt roads. We were both riding 'cross bikes after all. Riding at altitude is such a strange phenomenon. You don't really get tired, but you just can't catch your breath. Ha, it kind of amused me every time it happened.
On the way back down the hill to the van, I heard a "ping!" noise from my front wheel. UGH. I immediately knew I had popped a spoke nipple while I was slowing down into the final switchback. I had replaced one in Steamboat and I knew it was only a matter of time before more started giving out too. So I went about replacing the broken one only to break another in the process... I probably spent a few hours getting my wheel back in working order. I did finish though before the racers arrived! They made climbing up the mountain look effortless. Kind of mesmerizing actually and very cool.
We each had about three beers and a giant platter of waffle covered in fried chicken and sausage gravy, which of course made us extremely content. There were a lot of people to watch and lots of non-raining, warm sun to enjoy thanks to being out of the mountains. Eventually we got back in the van and headed south towards Loveland to the house of a friend of Jason's that looked almost identical to Mark Wahlberg. Karl, and his family opened up their house to the three of us and the two dogs and fed us as well. His wife made an awesome pasta salad thing for dinner and offered beer and wine too. Their house was big enough that each of us got our own bedroom. It was pretty great if you ask me!
Another earlish morn arrived and we made our way into the bowels of Denver to find a highly visible spot to park and set up for the final day of racing. Mission accomplished! We found a spot at a closed bank (because it was Sunday) and staked out our territory. We had a bunch of shade too thanks to some large bushy trees next to us. Ned and I rode down to the grocery store to get sandwich stuff and some snack food for the day as we waited. The final stage was a circuit race where the riders completed several laps of a course that was only 9.4 miles per lap. The opportunity to see the race unfold was greatest on this day because you could see how much time various groups of riders were gaining or losing every lap. And so much cheering thanks to the masses of fans that came out to the race!
Ted said he was going to leave a key or leave the door open but I guess he forgot because we were locked out. I scaled the fence in the back though and fortunately the back door was open, so I could get in. The fellers used the restroom and lo and behold, Jason had been there before, years before for a party thrown by a different tenant. Talk about deja vu.
They finally took off back towards Steamboat and I felt sad watching them leave. It would be a while until Ted and Carrie got home so I blogged for a while and waited on them. Eventually they showed up and we caught up on all of the goings on of my trip up to that point. Ted made dinner and we ended up playing games that night after dinner and hit the hay.
Ted and Carrie run a company they started out of their basement called Tarpestry. In essence, it's a tough fabric on one side and a bright colorful pattern on the other. They travel the U.S. going to music festivals and selling their wares. I love 'em personally. They're the best beach blanket out there! I helped make a few and prepared a bunch more for shipping while I was there. I hadn't seen their process in person before so that was fun. I also explored the city a little bit on my own. I saw Elysium in theaters, the Matt Damon futuristic movie where he tries to get to this ring civilization in space in order to receive treatment for a massive radiation exposure. I digress.
I stopped in the downtown Cathedral too for a while. It was gorgeous and worth the visit. A small group was rehearsing some choral arrangements and it was nice to just sit there and listen to them sing with the organ. I borrowed Ted's bike because he suggested it due to it looking less desirable in the eyes of a thief. I was pleasantly surprised at how bike-able Denver was from where they lived. The heart of town wasn't far at all from Jackson St!