Joel Reichenberger: Biking events impress
September 3, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Here's the thing that really left me impressed after the USA Pro Cycling Challenge's Steamboat swing late last month: In all the conversations I've had about the event, I have yet to talk to a person who didn't claim to have been genuinely impressed.
I, too, found no exaggeration was needed when it came to Friday's Stage 4 finish. That's surprising because, for me, the race came packaged with high expectations.
Friday left me and everyone standing near me on Lincoln Avenue almost speechless. People had been awaiting the arrival of the race, standing in the same spot, for hours, and it came and blew past them so fast it was hard to tell what happened.
Steamboat, too, was truly impressive that weekend, and those playing down compliments from race administrators are making a mistake. Riding into Steamboat with race support crews was a very cool experience. The crowds grew as we got closer to town and families from every ranch and house stood along the road.
Sure, the Pro Cycling Challenge staff said nice things about every town that hosted one of their stages, but I sat in two press conferences and was in three of the race's towns and Steamboat was different.
Race chairman Shawn Hunter, who lavishly praised Steamboat, supposedly also spoke well of Vail, but I didn't hear it. There was an announcement before the Vail press conference with the day's winning athletes that he'd speak afterward. I left the room before that, along with most of the press.
In Steamboat, he cut to the microphone first and interrupted the press conference introductions to say that Steamboat stood out.
It doesn't mean Steamboat will host a stage every year or even that Steamboat will host more in the future than Vail. I'd be surprised if Steamboat had one next year considering geography. But it does mean Steamboat truly rocked.
I come with more good news for cycling fans in Steamboat. I took advantage of the sneak peek of downhill mountain bike park under construction at the ski area, and that experience in many ways reminded me of the Pro Cycling Challenge. Downhill mountain biking isn't exactly my game. But make no mistake: The work is impressive. It lives up to the expectations. I'm convinced they will immediately impress all and thrill those so inclined.