One of the bonuses of having a large international race nearby is the riders taking over your town. Whether it is sipping espresso in your local cafe, or racing on your favorite roads, it is fun to have those at the top of the sport experience a bit of your life for once. Although the race did not come through Boulder, it is home to many in the cycling world and I knew there would be some racers in town and I hoped to sneak a ride with them.
I got my lucky break when I came across a tweet yesterday. After securing some life saving last minute baby watching from my mom, I was able to ride with almost the full squad brought to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge!
Perhaps you have read as many times as I have about what it is like to ride with world class professionals. In that case I can tell you: It is all true. If you haven’t, read on.
We set out in a double paceline. The riders at the front set a steady, semi-hard tempo for 4 minutes and then pull off, drifting to the back of the line. Riders behind are left to ride at a steady, easy-ish, conversational pace. Also, the pros pedal all the time. They also spin a high cadence. I am prone to lolling about in a big gear when the pace is easy and/or variable, but they would spin and spin and spin.
Personality wise, the riders themselves are somewhat cool and difficult to approach. Their tight knight team bond is obvious and they communicate with each other using short quips. Despite their different native languages (non of them English in this case), and constant road/wind noise, they coordinate with ease.
You may have heard various opinions on what is more or less ‘pro’ in regards to saddle bags. In this case, none were to be found. Most were riding their carbon tubular race wheels and we had a team car (complete with tags from the USAPCC) behind. I believe in their native environment (home training grounds) they would be found with seat packs dangling beneath.
We rode the classic group ride in Boulder, to Carter Lake. About 40 riders set out from town, but only about 15 were left after the climb to the lake. I haven’t ridden this loop since winter/spring time and it was fun to sweat it out in the heat with some serious horsepower. That being said, we did not hammer. I’m sure this was an easier day for these guys, but I averaged slightly lower heart rate and normalized power than I would on an endurance ride myself. They were very disciplined and obviously know when to ride hard, and when to ride easy.
I was able to make a bit of small talk with a few of the guys, but was mostly happy to pedal alongside them. I did chat with one of their team directors, Jens. He was Bart Wellens Physio (Former Cyclocross World Champ) and seems to be a ‘go-to guy’ for foreign squads racing in the US, having been at the old Tour de Georgia, and this year’s Tour of California. I asked him if the crowds really were biggest at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, not just hype from the promoters of a first year event. He said it was not hype, and it was the biggest race he has seen on American soil.
Cycling is truly such a unique sport and it has many great qualities. You can go to the Super Bowl but you can’t shout for your favorite player from a few feet away during the big game, but you can in cycling. You can’t play baseball on the way to work, but you can ride. You also don’t often get a chance to play a game of pickup basketball with you favorite superstar, but in cycling, anything is possible.