I’m here at my fifth and final USA Pro Challenge. (Whoa.) I’m honored to be one of only two people — my buddy Chris Jones the other — to have competed in every edition of the race. I should point out that it’s my final as a racer, that is, since I love this sport, I love the state of Colorado, I love the fans, family, and supporters, and I know I’ll be back in some capacity, I just won’t have a number on my back.
At any rate, despite being busy 25/7 with the bike racing itself, we’re still provided a few moments to absorb our surroundings. Colorado is a spectacular place to host a bike race, so here are some astute observations I’ve made from the 2015 edition of the USA Pro Challenge.
1. People are rolling out the red carpet for me and I’m eternally grateful and exceedingly flattered. Throughout the week I’ve received some pretty amazing gifts. Baked goods are delicious, the wine is divine, pictures and posters and coffee are all great, however I think the portrait made out of maple cookie crumbs takes the cake… as it were. Thanks Kaiko!
2. The wildfires that are absolutely torching the northwestern US generate a nostalgic, homey, ’round-the-campfire smell. Kiel and I chatted about it yesterday as we ventured into the front range mountains.
3. That ’round the campfire smell is not worth the nostalgia. It’s ironic to see morning weather reports on television throughout Colorado that recommend not doing anything that requires physical exertion while outdoors due to the air conditions. Meanwhile we’re hyperventilating as we effectively breathing through a straw typically above 10,000 feet in a smoke enveloped atmosphere. (Cough cough…)
4. Family surprising you at a race is always great.
5. UnTapped Maple Waffles are hands down the most delicious thing that has ever been in my race jersey pocket.
6. I am of course partial to Vermont maple syrup, but I can attest that Michigan makes a viable alternative. (I’m often asked what’s the best “brand” of maple syrup. Slopeside Syrup is the absolute tops, but second place is whatever has an ingredient list that reads: 100% maple syrup. #fromatree)
7. While not a new observation, American hotels are massive. Similarly the TVs are enormous. However, after flipping through the channels 17,000 times this week, I can report that there’s virtually nothing good on TV with the exception of Ridiculousness. I hope Rob Dyrdek invites me on the show as a special guest, pro cycling celeb retiree.
8. Racing at altitude with a fever is not cool. Not. Cool. Whatsoever.
9. Eating watermelon with a spoon is my new favorite method by which to consume watermelon. Pro tip: this is only worth it when you have wedges of watermelon, like so, and not just slices. Slices = finger food. Wedges = spoon food.
10. These kids will be alright. As I slowly meander out to pasture, it’s amazing to see the talent circulating throughout the modern professional peloton. The very young team put together here at Cannondale-Garmin is a testament to that. We saw it in Utah with Joe Dombrowski taking home yellow after a hard fought week. Meanwhile here in Colorado Nate Brown is riding like a man possessed, Kristoffer Skjerping is an incredible talent for the future, Italian Davide Formolo is the most entertaining person on the team with which to have a conversation — and his abilities on a bike dwarf his comprehension of English (Davide, my friends, is Italian). And the ever-smiling German, Ruben Zepuntke spews out watts that would make a 50 horsepower gas powered generator jealous. Moreover, each of these guys are 24 years old or younger.
This team and American cycling in general is on meteoric rise and I’m proud to have been part of this sport at this period ushering in a new face and new phase of cycling.
Over and out y’all. Thanks for the ride.