The USA Pro Challenge finished up in Denver on Sunday. After a week crossing Colorado, competitors in the international bike race made several laps in the heart of Denver. In the end though, it was a far different finish than a year ago.
It was a moment three years in the making. After two near misses, pro cyclist Tejay van Garderen finally clinched the yellow winner’s jersey.
Announcer Brad Sohner: “These folks love seeing Tejay van Garderen win, you gotta feel the love in Colorado!”
Tejay van Garderen: “Yeah, let me feel that love one more time!”
Van Garderen, who recently moved to Aspen, said it felt good to win.
<<sound of pro cyclists riding bikes, talking>>
After his first place finish, van Garderen and other top riders made their way to a nearby press conference. Some had beers in hand as they answered questions... It was a far more relaxed and playful scene than the end of the race last August. van Garderen had just barely lost to veteran Christian Vande Velde. Now, Vande Velde is retiring. And he talked about how different cycling is now than when he started.
“The way I’m leaving the sport right now in 2013 I’m very proud of, and I think that leaving these guys like Tejay, I think they’re in a really great spot, they’ll never have to look into things I had to look into when I came in the sport in 1998.”
A thinly veiled reference to doping, and how many say the sport is now cleaner. Vande Velde recently served a six-month suspension for doping in the past. He was once a teammate of Lance Armstrong, and was part of the investigation into whether Armstrong doped. This is the first year a European cracked the top three for overall winner. Tour de France champion Chris Froome, on the other hand, quit the race before it finished Sunday. He reportedly had problems breathing. While there are two other major cycling races in the US, Colorado is known for enthusiastic crowds. Riders were asked on Sunday what it’s like to be surrounded by spectators… some wearing outrageous costumes. Third place winner Tom Danielson spoke up.
“I don’t know if you guys saw my Twitter recently, but I got my first Twitter flash ever, right on the race.”
That was at the Vail time trial where a woman was captured on video, fully exposing her chest as he rode by. It was a big hit on Twitter.
“We don’t see it, we don’t see the capes, we don’t see the flashing… but we really appreciate it, and we make for great twitter afterwards…”
Spectators often end up getting a lot of attention. Its a barometer of sorts for how popular the event is. Crowds at the finish Sunday didn’t look as big as in years past… although there was enough activity to nearly disable cell coverage in certain areas. CEO Shawn Hunter said TV ratings also point to lots of people paying attention to the race—early numbers show ratings are up thirty percent over last year.
It’s hard to gauge the financial boost from people gathering and cheering on cyclists. In Aspen and Snowmass Village officials will be gathering public comments this week to better assess the economic impact of the USA Pro Challenge.