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UPCC Five Point Recap for New Pro-cycling Fans

August 29, 2011

The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UPCC) now belongs to history (sniffle, sniffle). Here are some ideas for fans just falling in love with the sport to consider as we all look forward to the 2012 UPCC.

Independence Pass ascent view from 1K to go above (Mary Topping)

Are there any great places to watch other than a start, finish, or on a mountain pass?

Andy fans risk all to show their love; this just below summit of Independence Pass (Mary Topping)

The climbs are one of my favorite places to watch a bike race. A special community atmosphere develops as people settle in and perhaps because of no Twitter feed need someone to talk to. Maybe it’s a special breed of spectator on the climbs, those willing to travel over smaller roads by car or bicycle or motorbike and rise extra early to arrive in plenty of time for a select spot on a switchback or above the road. With all this time on their hands they have the opportunity to exercise their creativity in designing sources of encouragement for their favorite riders (click on photo to see “Andy” engraved in snow).

UPCC Stage 6 corner of 19th and Washington in Golden (Mary Topping)

This year I found a new favorite place to watch a bike race – the inside corner of a turn at the crest of a hill. I stood on the northeast corner of 19th and Washington in Golden for my third viewing position of the sixth and final UPCC stage. The riders flew at me as they cut the corner, inches away. It was one of the most thrilling viewing locations I’ve ever experienced.

How can I find out what’s going on in the race if I’m on the race course and not in view of a Jumbotron?

Add a good Twitter feed to your phone or other device. The official race tweeter, @USAProChallenge is adequate though marketing-focused; other pro-cycling expert accounts such as @podium_live often provide more  knowledgeable and accurate information about the riders and race action. Twitter is only as good as your carrier and it’s bandwidth; this year most did not get a signal on Monarch Pass or Independence Pass. Some obtained a signal on Rabbit Ears. One Twitter friend lost coverage on the last day in downtown Denver; overload occurred in more than one location during the race.

How can I see more of the riders?

Two suggestions.

Leopards Watering and Feeding in Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, pre-UPCC Prologue Recon (Mary Topping)

If a prologue starts the UPCC next year, visit the prologue course in late morning or early afternoon the day before the prologue. At least half of the teams rode the prologue course as I pedaled over it on August 21st this year. George Hincapie, Cadel Evans, all of the United Healthcare team, and others rode within one or two lanes from me. Observing the two Colombian teams crest a hill riding two-abreast in a tight group left me speechless. It’s good exercise too. If I heard someone speeding up behind me on one of the hills I unconsciously sped up – until I was too out of breath to continue.

Before watching a finish find the team parking location. Follow the course after it ends; the team parking will be relatively close and identified by the team buses, campers, and cars with a placard that says “team” in the windshield. Run to team parking after the finish and watch the riders roll up to their vehicles and dismount. One of the most amazing images of the race for me was observing Peter Stetina after he clicked out of the pedals and walked away from his bike at the end of stage 5. His legs wobbled. Anyone who saw Peter’s gait that afternoon would realize that the UPCC was hard for the guys who really raced.

Following the race means I can’t see as much of the TV or Tracker coverage as I’d like. How do I find out what happened during the race?

Many pro-cycling websites produce excellent summaries of how the raced progressed, such as who battled to get into early breaks, which teams rode at the front, who experienced mechanical problems, which riders rode strong or struggled, and more. I often rely on cyclingnews.com’s “stage reports,” such as this one for stage 6. Their daily report lists stage placings and standings in general, jersey, and best team classifications after the summary.

The pro-cycling race bug bit real hard during the UPCC. How do I keep feeding it until next year?

To fill the time before you watch another race, read up on the sport: learn about other races, both in and outside of the U.S.; discover why tactics matter so much and it’s not always the strongest rider who wins. A good way to learn is to watch race coverage on TV from Universal Sports or Versus and pay attention to the commentary. Many pro-cyclists, team directors, and coaches have written books about bike racing. In 1984 Edward Borysewicz, bike racing coach to U.S. Olympic medalists, wrote Bicycle Road Racing: The Complete Program for Training and Competition. Bob Roll’s books delight for his funny anecdotes; they also explain many elements of pro-cycling.

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