Anna had some great opportunities to experience the US Pro Challenge behind the scenes: from team car rides, to pro riders borrowing her TT bike, to backstage swag-grabbing opportunities. Here’s her experience. Cover photo by (C)2012 Michael Seeberg.
I had a once-in-a-life-time weekend during the US Pro Challenge. On Friday morning my mother and I woke up rather early (for me at least) to head up to Colorado Springs to volunteer for the Pro Challenge. The entire ride up I was talking about how excited I was. After an hour car drive my mother and I arrived at 10:30am, we looked for our parking lot that we would be guarding. After we found the media lot we went to go get our t-shirts and bags full of goodies. Once we got everything, we went to the finish of the Pro Challenge. Usac had a crit that people could race before the racers came. We went to the finish and met a couple of ladies that saved me a spot at the finish since I couldn’t be there until 2:30. A couple of my teammates raced it, sadly I didn’t get to see them race but I heard they did an amazing job!
During our shift we met some really nice people. I had my ProChallenge tracker app on my phone so I could watch the race while doing our shift. At 2:15 my mom let me go to the finish line because I thought I would miss the finish and I would allow that to happen. As I got to the finish there were A LOT of people by the road waiting for the pros to come. When I got to my spot I found a hard chair to stand on because everyone is taller than me. I think I stood on that chair for at least 30 minutes before some actions started to happen. First in were the ProChallenge VIP cars with Ron Kiefel driving one of them. I tried saying hello but with hundreds of people saying “hi” it’s kind of hard to say hi back to one person. After all the VIP cars got out of the way the police and photo cars started to come by. This really got everyone ready to see the racers come and after about 10 minutes, the lead racers came by then the main peloton about 15 seconds after. During the last two laps the lead racers got caught. With two laps to go one of the racers thought it was the final lap so he sprinted and wasted some energy. When the racers were sprinting for the win, the crowd went nuts; I’m pretty sure I couldn’t hear anything but people slapping on the barriers and screaming. After Farrar won, I called my mom to see where she was and to see if we could stay for the podium and she thankfully said yes. After the road opened up, people flooding the road there was no spot to stand in the road so I went towards the back and set up one of our camping chairs that we had and stood on it so I could see. I think I was about 50 feet from the stage.
On Saturday, I got to ride in the EPM – UNE chase car!!! The day started off with my brother and I driving down to the Golden stage, on our way we saw the BMC cars in Morrison. We parked near the start in Golden and started to walk around. We had to meet the people between 10:15 and 10:30 but my brother Arie wanted to make sure we had plenty of time and got me there at 9am. As we walked around, we made our way to the team cars and hung around taking photos of the racers and what not.
At 10:15 I met Gus, and he was very nice and made sure I knew where to be. At 10:45 I said goodbye to Arie and got into the team car. I was with another boy named Dionte, and our driver (I can’t remember his name sadly). He didn’t know any English and I barely know Spanish so we couldn’t really talk much during the stage.
We had a neutral start of 3 laps around Golden. Right off the bat racers were attacking left and right. About 9 miles from the start Cadel Evens needed a bike change on our right and on our left was a motorcycle flipped over with gas pouring out of it on the guy who was on the ground. As we went through Boulder for the first time, there was a wall of people and everywhere you looked there were people. A group of 14 attacked and two people from EPM-UNE were in the break, going up Boulder Canyon, the group was gaining time on the main peloton, so our car got to go with the break away. When we passed the peloton we sped up the canyon going about 60pmh up it to get to the break away. I never realized how the cars communicate with one another until that day. All they do is get about 2 feet away and talked, simple until you’re going about 30mph and have cars around you. They also have two walky-talkies: one that has a person on it telling who is needed in the peloton, and one to communicate with the other chase car.
It turns out that in the chase cars they make deals with each other for the riders, so Radio Shack came up and talked to our driver about some deal, I couldn’t understand because it was all in Spanish. As we made our way back to Boulder going up le hill, it was crazy how the people made it. If I wanted to, I could reach out and touch someone. On our way down you could hear all the wheels on the cars screech as we were going so fast around the corners. When we got to the base of the last climb we watched the main peloton go by because we weren’t allowed to go up the hill because it would take to long for us to get down. I got a call from Gus telling me to get our driver back to 20th and Baseline, but again, the only issue was he didn’t know English. Luckily I had a translator on my phone so we could communicate through that. Once we made it back safely we met Rachel, after we gave the driver 3 of our TT bikes, aero helmets, and trainers for the riders to use the next day. Rachel then dropped me off at the nearby Einstein bagels to my mom and we were on our way home.
On Sunday morning, my father and I headed down to the last stage, the TT that was held in Denver. Last year I was unable to go to the last stage, but this year I made sure I had a good spot so I could see the start. My father and I got to Denver at 11:30 an hour and a half before the first rider was going to go off. As we made our way to the trailers, I saw a couple of friend from my old team. We got to the start with 45 minutes till the start, my dad and I waited and waited. At 1pm the first rider went off the crowed was really loud, we watched the riders go off one by one.
After Levi Leipheimer, my friend Davis and I went to find the podium, we walked to the giant stage thinking that was where it was going to be held. We were wrong; it was at the finish. So we made our way to the back of the finish, thinking no one was going to go that way and we could slip in close to front of the podium. Well everyone thought the same thing; it was like we were cattle getting herded. After we got out of that mess, we quickly made our way to the last corner. We finally made it to the podium, but they were already on their way with the most aggressive rider. I realized that the EPM-UNE had my TT bike and I needed to get it before they left for Columbia that night. I quickly said my good-byes to my friends, found my dad and made our way to the UnitedHealth Care RV. When we got to the RV, Gus said that they already left and were on their way to the hotel and had to leave at 4:30, It was 4:00 when he told us this. So he gave us the address to the hotel and we were on our way.
We got to the hotel when they were packing up the truck. It took a bit to find my bike because I know no Spanish at all and that’s all the guys who had my bike knew. One of my teammates Kimberley showed up to get her bike from them, and luckily she knows Spanish so she could talk to them well. I was standing there wondering what they were talking about. After 20 minutes we had everything under control, but we were missing a helmet. Kimberley left and my dad and I were to find the helmet, when we got the helmet and everything was good, my dad and I went to the car and packed up then we realized that most of the teams were going to this hotel so we decided to get our cameras:) I met Chirs Horner, Christian vadavelde, and many others, as my father and I were sitting around .Gus asked if we were in a hurry, we said no so he said that we had tickets to the after party that we needed to give to Rachel. So we sat and sat and the RadioShack team and EPM-UNE team gave us a lot of things like: water bottles, degreaser, soda, nutella and much more! I think we left with over 200 water bottles and at least 200 cans of soda. Here’s a photo of our US Pro Challenge booty! This was one of the best weekends I have ever had, and I owe it all to my amazing team!!