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UPCC Five Lessons for Old Hand Fans

August 30, 2011

You’ve stood on Alpe d’Huez or watched every stage of the TDF (and know what TDF stands for) on TV for at least three years. Gogo is a person you know and not something from a 60’s Laugh-In show or pole-dancing venue. This is for you. I expect lots of critiques because you know pro-cycling.

Best preparation for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UPCC)

On a media call three days before the UPCC prologue, Levi Leipheimer, said, “Racing Utah is the best preparation for Colorado because it’s racing at altitude.” The top five in GC at the UPCC rode the Tour of Utah (Leipheimer, Vande Velde, Van Gardaren, Danielson, and Hincapie). So study the 2012 Tour of Utah before the 2012 UPCC. Review the stage profiles and results at the race website  and follow @podium_live on Twitter for live feeds.

Levi Leipheimer chatting with Santiago Botero before Stage 2 start, 2011 Tour of Utah (Mary Topping)

It’s interesting to compare the elevations as well as the average feet climbed for both races. My second post on the UPCC as an altitude test lab included a table of starting, finishing, and highest elevations for the stages of that race. The average start and finish elevation points for the 2011 Tour of Utah are about 2,000 feet lower than those for the UPCC; the average highest point about 3,300 feet lower.

stage start elevation finish elevation highest point
prologue near Park City

6,955

near Park City

7,275

7,275

stage 1 Ogden

4,200

Ogden

4,200

6,100

stage 2 Lehi

4,595

Provo

4750

5120

stage 3 Tooele

4,400

Tooele

4,400

4,440

stage 4 Salt Lake City

4,600

Salt Lake City

4,600

4,840

stage 5 Park City

6,490

Snowbird Resort

8,100

8,100

elevations approximate

Average feet climbed is very similar for both races.

Tour of Utah Miles and Elevation Gain
stage miles elevation gain ft
prologue 1.25 615
stage 1 116 8,250
stage 2 100 2,820
stage 3 9.7 280
stage 4 81.4 6,670
stage 5 100 10,900
total 408.35 29,535
avg ft/mile climbed: 72.3
UPCC Colorado Miles and Elevation Gain
stage miles elevation gain  ft
prologue 5.18 219
stage 1 99.4 8,020
stage 2 131.1 9,746
stage 3 10 1,783
stage 4 82.8 5,034
stage 5 105.2 8,327
stage 6 73.79 3,129
total 507.47 36,258
avg ft/mile climbed: 71.4

Does on-site course recon in advance of the race really matter?

With all of the other variables involved in who succeeds on a given day and overall – recovery, illness, team tactics, mental preparation, and others – does reconning a course provide a significant advantage?

On the same media call mentioned above I asked Levi if he had reconned the Vail TT and what it would take to win that stage. His reply: “No, I haven’t seen it. I’ll ride it that day. I’ve talked to riders who have done it and looked at videos. It’s not a real climb; it’s more a time trial than a hill climb.” Levi won the Vail TT, though on nearly the same time as Christian Vande Velde. Did Christian recon the TT?

Conversely, Stephanie Danielson mentioned in Avon that because of his recon on Independence Pass Tom knew exactly how to take a certain corner to gain time on the descent, and he finished in the first group in Aspen.

Altitude Schamaltitude

The UPCC’s unique calling card, riders mentioned the high altitude as a significant factor in their performance and how the race played out. Andy Schleck described altitude’s impact after he finished stage 5 into Breckenridge (I believe the climb he’s referring to is Swan Mt.): “It is a little bit of a slow-motion race. A climb like today, if we’d done it at sea level, I think we would have done it four or five minutes faster. This has definitely been a hard race. Altitude has been the biggest force. I don’t think the climbs are harder than places like the Alps, but it is the altitude that makes us suffer.”

Yes, altitude mattered, but there’s something about the uni-focus on altitude that has bothered me. @CubyPoldark  summed it up for me: “agree about ‘altitude’ focus, thought it was reducing the race to a novelty event.” This leads to what to change and not to change for 2012.

Change this for the 2012 UPCC

Create a course that challenges on more than altitude alone. Increase feet of climbing per mile, add a mountain-top finish, and/or include steeper repeated climbs in a circuit-type race like the Salt Lake City loop in Tour of Utah (not as easy to do as in Europe, but we’ve got some steeper hills). Find a way to amp-up the challenge and still include a couple of sprint finishes. The sprint finishes this year added excitement to the race in the way only mass sprints can.

Offer a fantasy team challenge game on the official website like the one Versus created for the Tour de France, with a fan fantasy chat zone. The poster contest was artistically pleasing, but an on-line fantasy contest will engage more folks in the race.

There’s a whole world of women’s professional racing that would surprise even most pro-cycling fans. A reincarnation of the Coors Classic women’s race would recognize the hard work of female athletes, provide more exposure for sponsors that support racing by both sexes, and grow spectator interest in the UPCC. The race organizers would become heroes in the eyes of many.

Whoever is manning the official Twitter and account is doing a good job overall. They just need a bit more schooling in pro-cycling terminology and selection of the correct last name for Colombian and Spanish riders so readers don’t think Juan Pablo Suarez Suarez rides in the break when the right man is Eduard Beltran Suarez.

TV coverage in 161 countries but not Colombia when 12% of the peloton (and hence potential fans) call that their home country?

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it for 2012 UPCC

Team invites. The mix of Pro-Tour, new Continental, and Colombian teams drew attendance and added interest to the race via their participation in break-aways or pulling them back, and by introducing fans to new riders

UPCC website stage 2 screen shot

Lots of information on the website. Yes, sometimes the website got hung up, and some of the rider bios weren’t accurate. But overall the website is a great resource with videos of the stages, advice on where to watch, route maps (just add the feed zone), timetables, a place for comments on each stage, and more.

Race organization / implementation. Teams cited the quality of the race organizer, Medalist Sports, as part of their confidence in the event. Was everything perfect? No. Was it a first-year race? Yes. Was more right than wrong? Yes. Many have commented on failures of the TV coverage. How many domestic races have had daily national coverage during the inaugural year?

Spectator enthusiasm and attendance. Comments abound on this topic; there’s not a lot more to say. Just one thing: keep Golden in the race as a host city for 2012.

UPCC stage 6, downtown Golden Start at noon after last riders passed through (Mary Topping)

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  1. UPCC News Round-up, 9/23/2011 « ProVéloPassion

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