This last week Colorado was graced with one of the biggest pro stage races in North America. My brother, dad and I went out for Friday’s race finish in Colorado Springs and Saturday’s race finish in Boulder.
The plan was to ride the course ahead of the race and get a feel for what the riders experience during the race. Friday we only could get up a bit into the course, but Saturday we completed 90% of the course the morning before the race.
We are all fairly fit. My pop stays in decent shape riding and staying active, my brother rides most days (although 1-2 hours, not 5) and I try to race my bike. I was just coming off of a trip to China and only 10 days into my broken arm that is actually doing pretty well. We found out that fairly fit for the average man is barely fit for the pro levels of cycling.
My brother and I averaged 18 mph for Saturday’s stage. We didn’t go all out, but we didn’t take it easy either. It was just the two of us most of the time until we finished the last bit with my father. I can tell you that I was pretty worn out. We ended up with 100 miles and a lot of climbing. (8000 feet or so if I had to guess since we didn’t do the last 2 miles of Flag or the connection from Golden)
Would I have liked to been racing this last week with the likes of Levi, VDV, and Phinney? Sure, if I was younger, fitter, faster, etc. I am always in awe of what the human body is capable of and I was uber impressed by these guys. Look at the times on Flagstaff from the riders in the break after racing hard for so many days and then crushing it in the break all day. They crushed most local records and those are usually set on perfect days on the first ascent, not after racing 100+ miles. Amazing.
The cool thing is that pro racing is so accessible. You can’t catch passes from Peyton Manning or play one-on-one with Jordan, but you can go out and ride the same bikes and roads as the pros. You can essentially have the same experience and, as we did, watch the racers as they have the experience. I have raced against or ridden with 10 different riders from the race this weekend in this last year. There is such a different relationship with bike racing for the fans. It is a participation sport. Even if you don’t race, most fans ride. They know what it is like to bonk. They know what it is like to climb at threshold for 20 minutes. They know how it feels to wreck. And it gives us all a greater respect for those that do it day in and day out.