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Stage One, then Shift Pale Lager...

Hey readers! Tonight is arriving very quickly, so Simpsonic and I are going to make this quick (well, not that quick). Originally we were shooting for a 4pm posting, but then we realized that the race ends around then, and we want to include that part, so we called an audible and we're pushing it back a bit. So here we are, and here it is, last night, some Stage 1 coverage, a highlight reel and tons of awesome photos...

Let's start with the video:


And then on to the details (the words and awesome photos)...

It all started last night in Durango, after yesterday's sign off. Simpsonic and I loaded the blog up and headed into town. We arrived to an absolute pre-Pro-Challenge malee' and what do I run into first? The starting chute, all branded up:

That placement is just superb, thank you Pro Challenge.

And then we headed off to the New Belgium party on the roof-top at the Balcony, super fun, super crowded. We were giving away a cruiser bike to kick the week off right, but before we launched into the raffle the city of Durango launched some fireworks into the air. It was quite a spectacle, there were reds and blues and greens and explsions and everything. I would show you a picture, but really, have you ever seen a good fireworks picture? Probably not, and mine were no different, just awful... 

After the stunning display wrapped up, we jumped into the raffle. There were two tickets pulled and then we went to a Ro-Sham-bo-show-down! Brad and Mike went head to head in rock-paper-scissors for a best of three... Mike won (no question), here he is just elated:

See the excitement on that guy's face? He's very happy...

We are giving away a few more bikes through the week (like 4 more), so if you're following the race (like curb-side) make sure to attend the New Belgium after-parties (you can Tweet at me for city specific details (@nbbprochallenge))...

After the Balcony we headed over to Lady Falconberg's, a very nice beer bar right in Durango, and that's when things got weird:

After some pig-mural interaction Simpsonic and I called it a night, the big day of Stage 1 was looming and the dorm room beds of Fort Lewis College were calling.

Stage 1!

The early bird gets the worm! We were up and at em' and at the start by 8am. It took us a while to find the tent to pick up our media credentials (that's right, full access) but we found it and headed directly off to the start line. During the call ups George Hincapie was pulled in the first group of 12 riders and got a very rousing round of applause. This is big George's last professional hurrah, retiring after the Pro Challenge, and it was good to see him on the line and pumped:

 

Oh, and he's parked right next to Tour de France winner and world champion Cadel Evans... Don't those boys look ready for a fight?

With all the riders called up and chomping the announcers called Governor Hickenlooper to the stage to shoot the starting pistol. He looks confident with a gun:

And then boom, they were off. It was 126 miles of racing, and they started hot, fast paced from the git-go. Simpsonic and I jump back into the New Belgium team car and headed to Telluride. We had to take an alternative route from the racers, but luckily there was an alternative route–> up through Ouray, Ridgeway, and then into Telluride, just in time for the finish. The racers covered that ground (126 miles), on bicycles, in 4 hours and 42 minutes. We covered it, in a car, with a lunch stop in just under four. That is faster than 25 mph, for almost 5 hours, those boys were flying...

We got some great shots at the finish, but my favorite was all the photographers lined up for the shot. Here's Simpsonic out in front of the assembling pile...

Believe it or not, that is only 1/4 of the total number of picture-takers that crammed into that tiny little space, pretty astounding. Then we went to the post race beer shenanigans and drank some Shift Beer to celebrate a day well spent, it tasted very good:

Then this stuff happened, and it needs no explanation:

And on that note... We're headed to another Pro Cycling Challenge function... I am tired already, but ready for stage 2. See you tomorrow with more total sports coverage...

-Juicebox/Simpsonic (for the video and modeling credits)