Sonoma County residents Art and Gabriel Neibrief were on the road in Colorado following the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race.
Here is their report on Stage 7 and a recap of the trip.
Stage 7 & Recap
We were thrilled that Levi Leipheimer had taken over the yellow jersey with his climb up Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder on Stage 6 on Saturday. The final stage in Denver on Sunday was a 9.5 mile time trial. Levi had a 9 second lead on Christian Vande Velde and 21 seconds on Tejay van Garderen going into Stage 7. We got a great viewing spot at the edge of the course about 80 feet from the start ramp, getting there about three hours before the start. In the time trial format riders leave one at a time, with the leaders starting at the end; first one, and then two minute spacing between riders. Excitement built more and more toward the last 20 riders. The crowd of thousands began chanting each rider’s first name, louder and louder as they readied their start. After Levi’s start we went toward the finish area to try for a viewing spot and found one about 50 ft. beyond the overhead and clock. We saw Tejay finish the course in 17:44, Christian finish at 17:35 and Levi come in at 18:08, putting him at 3rd overall behind Vande Velde and van Garderen. Vande Velde told Velo News, “It’s been an amazing race for Garmin-Sharp and I’m excited to finally put the cherry on top with yellow in the race.” Levi was quoted in Velo News as well: “I actually felt really good, my legs were good…I think I got down to a really good climbing weight, but when it comes to 15K flat out of rough city streets with lots of corners, I don’t think I have what it takes. Christian had a phenomenal day. I deserved third, Christian deserved first, and Tejay deserved second.”
At the podium there was a lot of banter and many smiles amongst the riders; their respect for one another was evident. Taylor Phinney won Stage 7 with a time of 17:25. Jens Voigt won the mountain jersey, Tyler Farrar the sprint jersey, Tom Danielson the most aggressive rider jersey, and Joe Dombrowski finished as best young rider. RadioShack-Nissan won as overall best team.
Since this was George Hincapie’s last race, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin honored George with a presentation which included a brief recap of his career. George is 39 and has been a pro for 19 seasons. George introduced his wife, Melanie. They met at the 2003 Tour de France and now have a three year old daughter. That afternoon, George told a reporter that one of the things he wants to do is help youth that want to pursue cycling, the way he was helped while growing up in New York.
After the podium activities were over Gabriel and I stayed in the park near the podium area for over two hours, recollecting some of the events of our trip. We had taken time to enjoy Lake Havasu, The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Mesa Verde National Park before getting to Durango for the start of the race. We had gotten to meet some of the riders in Durango and elsewhere, ridden some of Stage 1 the day before the race began, seen a number of stage starts and finishes, and enjoyed local activities in Montrose and Gunnison. In Breckenridge, we took the gondola up the mountain to their fun park and rode their Gold Coast roller coaster ten times, something that Gabriel would have done all day if we had the time.
I brought Gabriel to Denver airport the next day for his flight to Oakland, where his mom would pick him up for the start of his school year that week. We had spent a very special two weeks as father and son and had driven about 1,800 miles together. I would do the next 1,200 back to Sonoma County on my own.