Stage 4. One of the greatest days of my life. I think I might have already said that this week, but this time I mean it. We decided to skip out on the start and finish of the race today and focus our sporting efforts on Independence Pass. So worth it, but a lot more on that later. First:
It was shot and edited (the whole nine) by a new fellow named Larry. Simpsonic had to depart for home today so we brought in a replacement, and Larry isn't half bad. So let's let 'er rip:
Last night was fun, we went to another after party, gave away another cruiser, and drank a few beers. I got zero photos, zilch. The bar was so crowded and so dark that the camera just wasn't working, at all. But trust me, it all happened. Then, after the beers and stuff we headed back over to our hotel in Aspen. Not really our hotel (per say), as we didn't actually have a room, but a friend did, and his room had a really large balcony. We slept on his balcony. Luckily it didn't rain. Here was the scene when we woke up at 6:00 this morning:
That is J- Party, waking up, looking good. But I don't want to dwell on the balcony. Let's move into the total sports coverage.
Today's start was in Aspen, then the riders headed back over Independence Pass, then on to Beaver Creek. We have been spending a lot of time at starts and finishes this week, so we figured a day from a different angle was in order. Independence pass it was going to be. In looking up the road closure information for the pass we found out that the road was closing on the Aspen side at 8:00am. Another early departure, but we made it to the top by about 8:45am. They weren't going to shoot the starting pistol until 11:20, and the riders weren't estimated to summit Independence until 12:30, so we had some time to kill, but kill it we did. There was a ton of people up there hanging out, having fun, so it wasn't difficult to enjoy ourselves. The atmosphere was festive from the get go and the crowd was totally into waiting for the racers to summit.
As you can read from the sign, Independence is up there in the clouds. The breathing was difficult for us, and we were just sitting around drinking beer. I can't imagine what those racers were going through. And the temperature was super variable as well. The clouds would cover and it would get cold, the clouds would break and it would get hot. Larry, and our pal J-Party, thought of one way to deal with it:
They would take their pants off in the sun and then put them back on during cloud cover. It was a strange method (to be sure), but it worked out for them (I guess)...
And then it was time to start really hanging out with the crowds. We started handing out beers and talking, it was a really fun time. It is truly amazing how nice people are when you start out the conversation with "hey, want a beer?" People were cheers-ing everywhere and smiling.
And these guys rode up the pass to watch the race, they earned those beers.
Before you knew it the time had passed and we were ready for the race. We started noticing the helicopter hovering so we knew the riders were getting close, and then, at the bottom of the road you could see a lone rider. The top of the pass was only 20 (ish) miles from the start, and then it was a long way to the finish, so no one was predicting a breakaway that early in the day. But wouldn't you know it... Jens Voigt! He was out front, by a ways. When he got up to our spot he had almost 3 minutes on the next closest group, and more than that on the main field. He was absolutely crushing it.
As you know from last night's post Jens is a favorite of mine. And since I started watching bicycle racing about 10 years ago I have always wanted to run along side a rider on a climb. That is major tradition in road-side-bicycle-race-watching. I wanted to do it so bad, and today, running next to Jens, was going to be my chance to realize the dream:
I was running with a pretty full Fat Tire in my hand and as we progressed up the hill it was splashing everywhere. I might have gotten some on Jens, or maybe even his bike (maybe). And then, as some of you might know, his breakaway stuck. He won the stage. I like to think the Fat Tire that I may, or may not have (but probably did) spilled on his bike was the lucky charm... So, in a very small way New Belgium helped Jens Voigt to victory today, and we will remember that always. PS. Hat's off to Mr. Justin Party for the wonderful picture.
Before, during, and after Jens came through the fans on the pass were borderline rabid. It was so fun to be a part of it, and if you ever get the chance to see a mountain stage at any race jump on it. Today will go down as one of my favorite days ever, in my whole life. So fun.
And then, before I wrap up, more pics that need no explanation:
And with that, we're gone. Make sure to check out tomorrow's post. I'm back with Team Optum, and this time I'm riding in their car... See you then!