Fans, challenge highlight race for Charity
August 24, 2015
Steamboat Springs — The best and worst of it, Steamboat Springs professional cyclist Amy Charity said, was pedaling up Moonstone Road, a steep and nasty hill midway through the time trial that marked Stage 1 of the inaugural women's USA Pro Challenge.
The time trial course wasn't long, 8.5 miles, but Charity said a time trial is to some degree a test of how much a rider wants "it," and thus no course is easy.
She spent an hour riding simply to warm up for her 8.5-mile dash, building up a healthy sweat, and once she was finally out on the course, she was pushing every muscle she had as hard as she could.
"In the first five minutes, I was tasting blood," she said. "In 10 minutes, I was getting tunnel vision.
"It wasn't pretty."
At the same time, there may not have been a better moment.
She was greeted by thousands of fans as she pedaled up that road — the most enthusiastic were crowding in to cheer her as she passed, only parting at the last moment.
"You hear the music and the people screaming," she said. "It was amazing."
That was only the beginning.
Charity said the next two legs of the three-day stage race were an equal mix of pain from grueling courses and joy from relentless fans.
She ended up in 21st place, 11 minutes and 3 seconds off champion Kristen Armstrong.
It wasn't a groundbreaking performance for Charity or her team, Optum Pro Cycling, which was left without some of its top talent thanks to scheduling conflicts, but that hardly soiled the experience.
She was 25th after Stage 1 in Breckenridge.
She hung tight on Stage 2's grueling 58-mile road race between Loveland and Fort Collins, placing 25th again.
Finally, in Stage 3 in Golden, she handled a tricky criterium circuit that included one nasty little hill and one stomach-churning dip. Organizers pulled riders from the back of the field off the course throughout the race, and in the end, Charity was one of only two Optum riders to finish, placing 23rd.
"It was a solid week for me riding. I wasn't ecstatic. I didn't pull off any miracles, but I was pleased with the outcome," she said. "It was top-notch racing for professional cyclists, and I hope it's something they will repeat. It made every woman in the United States who races professionally hungry for more."
The best of it, though, was on that horrible road in Breckenridge, the one lined with crazy fans.
Many were cycling fans from Breckenridge or the Front Range or any of the other biking hotbeds in the region, but plenty too were from Steamboat, former co-workers and neighbors, friends and family, and they shouted her name and cheered her on.
She rode so hard she got sick afterward and didn't even feel right an hour later.
But even after that hour, the ride stuck with her for all the best reasons — the challenge, the competition and those fans.
"The fans are the only reason I made it over the hill," she said. "That was amazing. It was one of the best highlights I've had on a bike, ever."