Art and Gabriel Neibrief reporting for the Press Democrat from the USA Pro Challenge:

Stage 1, Durango to Telluride

Monday morning saw thousands turn out to see the start of the ride through the streets of Durango, before the riders left town for

Levi Leipheimer interviewed by Dave Towle before the start of Stage 1 in Durango. (COURTESY PHOTO)

the day’s battle which would end in Telluride, a 125 mile stage.

Riders had a Cat 3 climb to Hesperus, followed by a descent into Dolores, and then a 30 mile climb with a Cat 2 to Lizard Head Pass, 10,222 ft. elevation.

Riders worked so hard that Dave  Zabriskie of Team Garmin Sharp said he “went so deep that he just puked.”  This arduous climb saw the peleton separate, but as the riders descended 15 miles into Telluride the breakaway riders were absorbed by the peleton.

The finishing miles were exciting, as riders jockeyed for position descending into Telluride and through the flats of town.  It was an all out sprinting effort at the end of the stage for the riders.

Tyler Farrar of Team Garmin Sharp was the stage winner, and he also took the sprinter’s jersey.

Garmin Sharp had led a 22-man breakout of Durango with the goal of helping either Farrar or Tom Danielson win the stage.

At one point, the break was about 5 minutes ahead of the peleton.

Danielson won the ‘King of the Mountain’ jersey, and teammate Peter Stetina got the ‘Most Aggressive Rider’ jersey.  Gavin Mannion of Bontrager Livestrong won the ‘Best Young Rider’ jersey.  So, Team Garmin Sharp cleaned up, taking four of the five jerseys for Stage 1.

We drove out of Durango just ahead of the start to avoid road closures, and stopped to chat with other fans at the crest of Lizard Head Pass.  We met a woman from Lake Tahoe who had driven out with her bicycle to follow the race, and a man from Knoxville, Tenn. who had done the same.

This road trip is giving us a chance to travel some great roads with wonderful vistas of mountains, forests and meadows.

Race organizers and the pro teams have done a lot to make this experience as up close and personal as possible for the fans.

Before each stage,  there is an introduction of riders and fans can line up next to riders walking their bikes before the stage begins.

At each start and finish, there are facilities for fans to enjoy activities, including activities for youngsters and jumbotrons for fans to view the race in progress from helicopter and motorcycle video feed.

We left Telluride for Montrose at about 5:00 p.m. to see the start of Stage 2 today, Aug. 21.

As it turned out, we were followed by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, Phil at the wheel of their SUV race vehicle.

As soon as we arrived, we got on our bikes and rode to a local outdoor festival, where The Wailers were performing their reggae magic.

What a surprise treat!


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