Aspen is a cycling town. Maybe it’s the fresh air. Maybe it’s the constant eco-consciousness. Maybe it’s the piles of young at heart hippies. But, bikes, bike shops and bikers line the boutique-laden shop of this elite resort town every day that the weather will allow.
When you combine the town’s bicycle culture with the legendary terrain surrounding it, Aspen is a natural stop for the USA Pro Challenge, America’s premiere cycle racing event. Lexus – one of the tour’s major sponsors — and the St. Regis Hotel Aspen invited a mix of automotive media, fitness journalists and travel writers to see this weekend’s race up close.
The USA Pro Challenge is an American cousin to the Tour de France. It doesn’t get the same press hype the French event enjoys, and it might not as many big name cycling stars, but the energy and enthusiasm around Aspen didn’t wain as a result.
While cycling fans gathered along the streets of Aspen and around the mountain roads heading out of town would see only a momentary glimpse of the athletes as the 100+ cyclists whipped by en masse, the best place to see the race unfold is from within the media cars implanted in the line of racers.
Lexus provides most of the support vehicles for the race, ranging from press cars to judge’s transport to support vehicles. All linked by radio, the vehicles engage in a race-long dance of positioning, leading and pursuing. As the race begins, there are press vehicles out front and support cars riding out back of the pack. Every cycling team has a car or SUV that can move up to the racers when needed with food, water, spare tires, etc. Behind them, emergency medical technicians and photographs keep pace on motorcycles.
As the racers space out over the 100+ miles, the shuffling begins. The media cars slip in and out the racer lines wherever there’s a two minute gap or so. The support cars approach when cleared by the race marshals. The entire complex process of maintaining and monitoring the event buzzes around the cyclers as they stay locked in on the process of racing.
The Aspen leg of the USA Pro Challenge wrapped up in Breckinridge, with Kiel Reijnen surviving the 12,000 foot climbs to take the victory.