There are lots of reasons to love the USA Pro Cycling Challenge — the most prominent being that many of us won’t be able to work on Monday because of the road closures. My first day back to full-time work in five years was slated for Monday, now it’s Tuesday.

Other reasons include that the race generated $80 million for the state last year, the race and Telluride will be broadcast live in over 161 countries to over one million spectators and the race will bring the world’s best cyclists to our town. That’s cool!

But the coolest part about the race is the race.

If you don’t know anything about bike racing it just looks like a bunch of skinny guys in bright, tight clothes riding their bikes for hours and hours until one guys sprints out to the front and wins.

This scenario couldn’t be further from the truth (except the part about cyclists being skinny and wearing brightly-colored Lycra). What non-cycling fans don’t know is that cycling is a team sport and one that is full of strategy. And, as NBC loves to remind us, is full of “drama”.

Here’s a quick rundown on how cycling works. Each team has a team leader who the rest of the team, or the “domestiques”, are  “working for”. That means the other guys will ride in front of their leader, or “pull” him, so he can save energy until there is a strategic place to break. In the best-case scenario a few members from the same team will be in the “break” – a group of riders that break away from the peloton or main group.

Once there is a break, the excitement begins because the peloton is always faster and stronger than a group of four of five riders. For the rest of the race the suspense builds as to whether the peloton will pull them in. In Stage 1 of the USA Pro Challenge on Monday, Telluride to Durango, many believe that break will happen as the riders climb Lizard Head from Rico.

Even with a successful break, the riders have to position themselves to win a short sprint at the race’s end. The margins between wins and losses can be seconds or fractions of seconds. After racing 125.6 miles and climbing a total of 9,238 feet, (the statistics for Stage 1) losing by a few seconds is fairly dramatic. This entire seven-day race has the competitors riding 683 miles, topping nine mountain passes and climbing 42,000 feet.

The best way to learn bike-racing strategy is to listen to commentators like Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Liggett just called the Olympic road races in London and his strong English accent combined with his passion and quirky analogies make for entertainment in itself. The two are the undisputed voices of bike racing in the English-speaking world and they will be commentating for NBC. The other way to understand bike racing is to bike race, but that involves a lot of pain.

But even if you’re not interested in the strategy of bike racing and learning foreign terms like the peloton, domestiques, Queen Stage and the maillot jaune (yellow jersey), there are many facets of bike racing everyone can enjoy.

First, you are not pigeonholed to drinking Budweiser or eating chilidogs and Velveeta-smothered nachos as football and baseball fans are. Cycling fans favor sipping Mimosas on mountain passes and nibbling on baguettes topped with goat cheese.

Secondly, cycling fans dress up. And, I don’t mean in their favorite team’s colors or in a cute baseball jersey. I mean cycling fans dress up as gorillas, fat ladies, Captain Underpants, Super Heroes – you name it– it’s all fair game. And instead of cheering for their favorite riders, they chase them.

Lastly, instead of creating traffic, cycling races forbid it. The entire road from Durango to Telluride will experience rolling closures at least an hour before the cyclists come and the Spur will close somewhere between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm until after the race. Riders are estimated to enter town around 3:50 pm.

Clearly this is a huge bummer for Fed Ex, UPS and anyone who has to leave or enter town, but for those of us who love to ride non-motorized toys with wheels — and who convinced our bosses into calling the day off — it’ll be a heyday. Not to mention the newly paved road from Lizard Head to town. One friend likened descending down it on a road bike to  “a powder day.” That’s pretty big talk.

Monday will also be a great time to indulge in street art. Color those closed roads silly with chalk or spray paint and you may just see the fruits of your labor on national television. Cyclists spend a lot of time staring down at the pavement and so do the cameras.

On Monday, the USA Pro Challenge comes to Telluride — a time to get out your bikes, long boards, cruisers, colored chalk, fat-lady costumes, and Mimosas.

For a complete listing of events on Monday, television and Internet coverage, and parking and road closures go to







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