Well I've been back home now for two days.
I had the luxury of staying in the Denver and Colorado Springs area for a few days after finishing up the USA Pro Challenge Race Experience. During that time I was able to spend some time with my wife who came out to join me for a few days, get some work done, and do a little more riding.
Stages 4 through 7 of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge were awesome!
Stage 4 was the ride from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek. It was 103 miles of some fun ups-and-downs that included Bachelor Gulch. Unfortunately for me, I started the day with an upset stomach. I think I had a little too much Sriracha Sauce on my rice at breakfast and my stomach was not happy. This made for a tough day on the bike as I really couldn't eat at all during the ride or drink too much water. I was really happy for the day to be over and I was really hoping that I wasn't getting sick!
Thursday evening my stomach settled down and I was able to eat and drink as I normally would. Thank goodness!
Stage 5, the Vail Time Trial, was an easy day for our group. It ended up being a really fun day on the bike!
We waited around for a while waiting for the starting ramp to get built. We were hoping to ride down the starting ramp. This would have been fun but we decided to not wait around and get our ride started.
The group started out easy. One of the CTS coaches and I had made a trip to handle a nature call so when we got back the group had already taken off. We rode on the time trial route to catch up to them.
I have to say that the race organizers did a really good job with the Vail route. The start was amazing how it flowed through the Vail Village. I could see how this was going to be a really awesome time trial for the Pros doing the race with all the crowds.
After catching up the rest of our group I rolled past them and keep going. Another rider joined me. As we were riding on the time trial route we got to pass some of the pros riding the course. We chatted some with them and just having fun.
The guy I was riding with is a good rider. He climbs faster than me but I knew that I could ride faster on the low grade sections of the course where it's one to three percent. So I pushed the pace a little...not too hard because we had a couple more days in the saddle and this was somewhat of a rest for us. After holding around 350 watts for a few minutes I had a really good gap. I kinda knew that I would get caught as the grade went up!
Much to my surprise, I got caught a couple minutes later by the rider I had dropped. This was much earlier than expected. But, there is a really good story here.
After I had dropped him one of the pro riders that was riding the course on his TT bike saw what happened. He rolled up to the guy I dropped and told him "get on my wheel." The guy I dropped told him that he was ok but the pro insisted again that "it's ok, get on my wheel." So, he did. In a couple minutes they caught me and the pro rider went by me with a big smile on his face. It was awesome!
After doing the time trial course we continued on up over the pass on a bike trail that follows I70. It was a great day on the bike!
The next day we had Stage 6. It was almost 120 miles going from Loveland to Fort Collins with a decent climb in the middle that's around 50 miles long. This was one of the most beautiful days on the bike. We flew up the climb at a good pace and flew down. All-in-all it was a great day on the saddle. What made the day awesome was the group of guys I was riding with this day. We pushed a good page and averaged around 20 mph for the day.
The final day, Stage 7, we decided to do an easy ride into Denver. We treated this ride like the ceremonious last stage of the Tour De France. With having nine other riders, there are varying levels of ability as far as riding speed goes. This doesn't mean that any of the riders are any less skilled. I have more respect for some of the riders that did this experience than many people that race. By this time we had done about 600 miles on the bike in 6 days with some serious climbing. So, we stayed as one group riding into Denver and to the course that the Pros would race later that day. Once on the course, we hung out for a while waiting for the course to get officially closed. We talked with each-other, the sponsors, and the course workers. We just hung out for a while. (This is where I learned that Fat Tire Beer is coming to Ohio in a few months.) After hanging out a bit we went ahead and did our lap. It was a blast. There were big crowds already amassing on the course for the start of the pro race. After our ride I cleaned up, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and watched Peter Sagan win another stage of the race this year! It was awesome!
At the end of everything I have to say that what Chris Carmichael and his team are doing with these race experiences is AMAZING! I got to experience what it's like to be a pro bicycle racer. I was treated like a pro. I got to personally meet many of the pros and talk with them on multiple occasions. I got to meet great people doing the race experience along side me that I would have never met otherwise. They are friends which I can ride with while traveling. I just can't say enough.
So, would I do it again? Yes! Without a doubt!
If you have time, go check out some of the videos and pictures that are posted on Carmichael Training Systems' Facebook Page.