A fan heads up Rabbit Ears Pass ahead of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Saturday.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

A fan heads up Rabbit Ears Pass ahead of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Saturday.

Pro Cycling Challenge brings out best dressed to Steamboat

Costume-clad fans cheer on cyclists

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Fan Flavor

Hundreds of spectators lined parts of U.S. Highway 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

— Tony Miles stood along U.S. Highway 40 about 500 meters from the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday.

Miles and his wife, Kirial, were patiently waiting for riders to ascend the pass during Stage 5 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

Most of the fans — many of whom were clad in costumes dusted off from Halloweens past — were from Steamboat or other areas of Colorado. They lined Rabbit Ears from bottom to top to get a better glimpse of some of the top cyclists in the world. And as crowds rapidly began to fill in along the highway, there might not have been anyone as happy to be there as Tony Miles.

The Atlanta firefighter and his wife hopped in their car at 2 p.m. Wednesday, drove 25 straight hours and arrived in Steamboat around 3 p.m. Thursday.

“I’m a cycling fan and a firefighter full time,” said Tony, wearing a Team RadioShack jersey and an American flag. “The guys at the station I work at always joke with me when we watch the tour about somebody running up the hill with them. I’m going to be one of those guys. I’m going to be one of those idiots running up the side of the mountain.”

Tony wasn’t alone. If Friday’s stage brought seemingly all of Steamboat to downtown, Saturday’s stage winding up the toward Rabbit Ears Pass brought out all the costumes.

Wonder Woman, cross-dressers, men in thongs, men and women in spandex, a nun, a devil, Uncle Sam and Captain America all banded together mid-morning in one common goal: To be “one of those idiots” running alongside the best riders in the world.

If they needed tips on etiquette or simply how to effectively run next to riders, they had to look no further than Tim Thompson.

Thompson — wearing just spandex briefs — has done this before. He came out from Tennessee last Sunday to follow the Pro Cycling Challenge. And every day since, he’s watched — and chased — the riders.

He got warmed up early Saturday, running alongside the many spectators who chose to ride their bikes up Rabbit Ears Pass before the pros arrived. Hardly an amateur cyclist went by who didn’t get encouragement — and sometimes a push in the back — from Thompson.

“Hell yeah, man,” he said. “It’s been awesome.”

Thompson traveled 19 hours to Colorado for the Pro Cycling Challenge. Along the way, he’s camped around Colorado and even ridden his bike a bit.

He said being at the prologue alone was worth the drive.

“You only get a few chances to see some of the greatest riders in the world,” he said. “The Americans are doing so well that makes it even better. If you can’t go to France, you might as well come here. Please keep doing this. I mean every year.”

— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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