Here in Colorado we have a rich history of professional bike racing. Our altitude and challenging hills (mountains, really) have been luring cyclists for years. Those seeking pain and glory got plenty of both at the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic (1975-79). This morphed into the Coors Classic (1980-1988). If you were living in Colorado during that time, it was an annual party (picture that scene in American Flyers–it was filmed in 1984, just weeks after the Coors Classic finished, on parts of the same race course).
But then the racing stopped. Colorado fell into a pro-racing withdrawal for years. Like the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty,” all the pro racing villagers seemed to fall asleep. Thorns and bushes grew over our hills until our cities (and eventually our state) practically forgot pro bike racing ever existed here. Okay, okay, this is an exaggeration. The local bike racing scene and the cycling lifestyle boomed in Colorado with during this gap. And our roads are mostly thorn-free except for that one section of HWY 93 that’s full of glass.
Regardless, the USA Pro Challenge came along in 2011, slashing through the thorny vines and waking everyone up! We had 4 glorious summers of tour busses filled with very skinny/fast people and hordes of bikes streaming through our cities. Bells were rung, flowers bloomed, mountains called, the crowds came out. But apparently someone pricked his or her finger on a spinning wheel and put us all to sleep again at the end of 2015. We’re guessing it was that shirtless bozo drunkenly running (er…trotting) up Lookout Mountain. The race would not return in 2016. More darkness. More sadness. Much snoring.
Snoring…until this SUMMER — the summer of the inaugural Colorado Classic Bike Race!! And yippee!! Pro bike racing is BACK to Colorado!
Read on for a recap of the Colorado Classic through the eyes of one of our local Feedback Sports racers, Dan Wyszynski. Dan fits in well with our team as he’s a self-proclaimed bike geek. We ran into him at the final stage (in downtown Denver). As Dan started showing us his pictures and video from the previous stages we knew his story would make a fun post. We hope you enjoy taking a tour…inside the mind of a bike geek at the Colorado Classic.
In May of 2000, I decided to leave the suburbs of Chicago and my family to ride and race my bikes in the mountains. And 17 years later, I am still in Colorado. Riding and racing bikes. I participate mostly in mountain bikes and cyclocross for Feedback Sports Race Team as a category 2 in both disciplines.
These experiences fed into my bike geekiness. Imagine going to a stage race with the top pros in the world, as a spectator. Yes, I am one of those crazed fans who runs alongside the top racers on the planet. It started with the Tour of California several years ago, US Pro Cycling Challenge-Colorado, Leadville 100 mtb, various MTB and CX UCI level events, and this year’s inaugural Colorado Cycling Classic.
Stages 2 & 4
I drove up to Breckenridge Thursday night, and slept in the woods to catch Stage 2 in and around the town. At the beginning, I stood at the start line for the call-ups. 2017 Tour de France 2nd place overall rider Rigoberto Uran was within an arm’s reach. Local Pro Tour guys, Alex Howes, Taylor Phinney, Danny Pate, and Gregory Daniel were all on the front line.
I stayed there for a couple laps, then I decided to make my way to the wicked climb/KOM at Moonstone Road (a 8.3%-10.8% grade). Being at this point in the course was a dream come true. Picture hundreds of people, in costumes, (some barely clothed), bubble machines, and a party bus equipped with a second story dance floor along with a DJ scratching records. And then add LOTS OF BEER!!!!!
I also went to the final stage 4 in and around the city of Denver. HOT HOT HOT! It was a relief when the storm clouds rolled in. Just as the riders crossed the line, rain, lightning and the winds came. This just added to an epic finish in the middle of the city.
Best Interactions w/the Racers
I had a great time yelling, screaming, and heckling Alex Howes and Gregory Daniel to keep on drilling it. Both of whom had big smiles every time they passed me (maybe it was a grimace, who knows!).
But the best and most amazing performance was TJ Eisenhart of the Holowesko/Citadel Team. From the start of the race he takes a flyer off the front. He held the lead for 60+ miles-SOLO. However, with a couple miles-final lap to go he was caught by Alex Howes and Peter Stetina and Alex won the stage with a wicked sprint finish.
Craziest Thing Seen
It is nearly impossible to pick one thing. Moonstone Rd was the perfect spot for all of the craziness. My top two are: The guy with a monkey hand puppet, head banging and dancing to Metallica’s Seek and Destroy. And second would be the guy who wheelied up the steepest part of the KOM climb-about 50-60 yards (Peter Sagan style).
The younger generation of riders is the hope for the sport. Some of them are under 20 years of age. Lots of them are 20-23 years old. Also, the Colorado Classic is the first of its kind where the race as a whole is different. More of a festival type of atmosphere. One example was the concerts, food trucks, and vendors in the expo area of the final stage.
The course profiles are also different. Total mileage per stage is much less than what it was before. Short distances, hilly parts and super-fast speeds. This new aspect of the sport was clearly obvious and super exciting for Stage 2 in Breckenridge. You could feel the energy of the fans, the racers and the announcers; all of whom gave this race five stars all the way around.
*Only time will tell if Colorado’s pro cycling racing kingdom will stay awake and alert for the coming years. But for now, we’ll take the five stars…and the two T-Rex.