Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge was an exciting one for me: I had never been right on the course for a major cycling event. Today changed all that.

I read Emily Brendler Shoff’s post about Lizard Head Cycling Guides’ option to view the end of the climb up Lizard Head Pass, and immediately went online to register.

This morning dawned wet- not my usual choice for a ride up to the pass. I rode the 2 miles into Telluride in a drizzle, the road wet from the earlier rain. I dropped a pack with my “costume” in the van, then rode up to Paragon Sports to meet my fellow riders. They were mostly from the flatlands, but eager to try on high Colorado for size. The team stayed pretty much together along the “Spur” but began spreading out as we hit the first climb up Lawson Hill. I have to admit I was well behind the leaders, but told myself it was because I haven’t been doing enough riding this summer and there is also the fact of my advanced age. Hint: always keep a few excuses in your kit.

Everyone was ready for a break by the time we got to the top of Lizard Head. A few minutes for pictures and we all headed down the pass for a longer break at the Cross Mountain trailhead, about 2 miles down from the summit. That climb gave us a bit of perspective on the conditioning of the Pro riders as we later watched them charge up out of the East Fork of the Dolores Valley. After a little time to stretch and grab a snack and something to drink, several of us started down the Pass to Rico, and a few went a ways beyond that, turning around in time to not get caught by the peloton before they reach our viewing spot.

At the Lizard Head Cycling camp, we enjoyed salad, grilled burgers, some protein snacks, and dried out/warmed up after our ride. I had just finished, and dressed in my get-up (cowboy hat, long duster, black rain pant to simulate my normal Levi’s) when the pre-runners began coming through: Highway Patrol cars, motorcycles, and finally after great anticipation, and well before anyone expected them, the athletes. Flag wavers, cowbell ringers, folks in costumes all were there to greet the solo at the front of the pack, then a small break-away group, and some space before the main peloton came through. There were a few individuals, several packs of three or four, one more larger group, and then they were gone, charging up the gentler climb to the summit and down to Telluride.

Our group soon got geared up to follow at a more sedate pace, though I have to say, my light wind and rain jacket flapping loudly at 40+ miles an hour on skinny tires seems like moving out to me. I was tired by the time I got home, but found myself making plans for next year. Lizard Head’s 8 day trip to follow the Challenge… H-m-m-m. Worth investigating.

For more complete coverage of today’s stage, including placing, check out Jesse James McTigue’s post on Telluride Inside… and Out, “After Stage 1 Everyone Is a Fan.” A further note: Tyler Farrar grew up in Wenatchee, WA, just over the hill from my family’s ranch. I know his father, so it was nice to have him notch a stage win.

  • Lawry and Eileen de Bivort
    Posted at 07:33h, 21 August

    Great story, Clint! Thanks.

  • kristine
    Posted at 07:44h, 21 August

    Hi Clint! Yes, great story! And formidable effort! I was tempted to try that but was quite intimidated! You Rock! I am so proud of you! Wasn’t this an amazing event in our town?