Friday Group Ride #45

The 1986 Coor’s Classic

The seven-day, 600-mile long Quizno’s Pro Challenge has already landed the honorific of “the greatest bike race ever held on American soil from August 22-28, 2011.” True enough. After all, the 1996 edition of the Tour DuPont, which was 1225-miles long, was held in May. Nevermind about the 18-stage edition of the Coor’s Classic held in 1986 which was won by Bernard Hinault and was held in … August, though obviously not running from August 22-28.

We don’t know a lot about the Quizno’s Pro Challenge just yet. Aside from seven stages encompassing 600 miles of racing, we’ve been told it will feature a prologue and one individual time trial plus several mountainous stages, and just one stage suited to sprinters.

If the 2011 Giro d’Italia is any indication, stage race organizers may be starting to think about what makes for exciting racing to the viewing public. Mountain racing is exciting, whether you are watching in person or on TV. And whether you’re at the top of the climb or 5km from the top, it’s still exciting to watch. Contrast that with watching a crit two corners from the finish. Yes, watching a pack fly by at 36 mph is pretty cool, but you almost never have the feeling that you’ve watched a win in the happening. Worse, watching a crit on TV is rarely as good as a trailer-park fight on an episode of COPS.

The chance to watch 120 PROs tackle the mountains of Colorado is a siren call to any roadie. As sure bets go, it seems likely that some folks who would have traveled to see the Amgen Tour of California will, instead, head to Denver to take in some stages of this new race.

And that, dear friends, begs the question: What gets you out to watch bike racing? Have you ever built a vacation around going to watch a bike race, be it the Tour de France, the Amgen Tour of California or the Hell of the North? Further, to the degree that you would consider attending either the Amgen or Quizno’s races, which would you go to … and why?

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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22 comments

  1. trekdude

    Has nobody replied yet?! What?! I live and ride in NC and I plan to try to get to a couple of stages of BOTH races. Of course, DRIVING to CO will be a bit easier than driving to LA – I’ve got to see that Mt. Baldy stage. And bring my bike to ride some of the routes – hence the driving long distance to watch these stages. How else are we going to see the best riders in the world perform LIVE?! Plus, both races are nicely spread out across our North American Summer, in May and August.

  2. Champs

    Last year, I did take an impromptu European vacation in at least some part to see a sprint stage of the Giro. My wife was an art student and a fan of Mark Cavendish — and wouldn’t you know, a pancake-flat stage was hurtling straight into Florence on one of the days we would stay there.

    The planets aligned a number of times; I also got to visit my German host family during the town’s biggest festival (and redemption for teenage drunkenness), but Florence was the clincher, and the Manx Missile delivered.

  3. Rick

    03 Worlds in Hamilton ONT. Teammates and I rented an RV and drove up from Boston. Cool week, where else could you meet Eddy, Museeuw, Jalabert just walking down the street! Met cool folks from around the world and right around the corner from home!

  4. Dan

    Coors Classic 85 & 86, when they had the coit tower I.T.T. (prologue, I think) & Presidio circuit race. Last minute, totally impromptu, no reservations vacation to see The Tour in 2003, with a slightly more formal plan in ’04, & at least 3 stages of every edition of ATOC, including next year. Hills, Mountains & TT’s(especially TTT’s) make great spectating, for the whole family. Coors in my 20’s with the homeboys, Le Tour with the future Mrs., ATOC’s with the whole family,dragging the toddler in the trailer to the KOM.

  5. Marco Placero

    Been able to ride, even walk to ToC. My feet got me out to watch bike racing. Oh and I watch some very un-PRO bike racing while waiting for my Cat’s start time. Mechanic has driven a team car in the Giro, so his stories entice race based Giro travel. Someday. . .
    The Coors classic was hyperenergized when I spectated.

  6. trekdude

    Champs,

    I was at the Giro last year for the ill-fated Bergamo and Milano stages 8 and 9 (won by Cav). Regardless, it was SO COOL being amongst the tifosi watching the peloton whiz by and just being in the venue! The Monte Patrano stage on TV was epic, won by Sastre in 7:11. What suffering! Popo just ran out of gas.

    What an interesting city/area Florence is! The sculpture is awe-inspiring! The wine is good, too.

    That trip has motivated me to watch more Pro Tour racing on home soil.

  7. randomactsofcycling

    The Tour Down Under caters really well for spectators as the entire event is within reach of great accommodation in Adelaide, but it’s hot as hell there and not much fun waiting to see anybody for a few fleeting seconds. Only the Willunga Hill stage this year, where they took the ascent twice, is truly memorable in terms of racing. To meet the riders and see the Team operations though, the TDU is brilliant.
    The World Champs in Geelong was brilliant as they made the loop 9 times and you could watch the attrition occurring right before your eyes with each lap.
    We don’t get much in terms of Pro racing in Australia and though I am hoping to catch some of the Giro on a trip next year, I would say the ability to meet and mingle in Adelaide really makes the event special.

  8. Souleur

    Souleur will do his best to be there. Juggling the obligations sometimes forbids it, other times it will allow.

    My family in Grand Junction is excited and says the whole state is really up for this.

    My last real witness of PRO bike racing in Colorado was the Red Zinger classic, in 1991 when a young Scott Moninger on team Mercury rode a killer single day race of ~220k. They started in Colorado springs, where it was 90* and went over Hoosier Pass where it was 40* and very cold rain, nearly snow. It must have been a killer because the winning time was over 7hrs. Many of them opted for mtn bikes over one of the steepest pass’s. Seeing them come into Breckenridge was the first time I said ‘epic’. You could hear the helicopter come in miles away, the crowd was energized even as cool as it was in Breck. It was the age of big glass’s, Look fat pedals, spinergy wheels, steel and campy ergo 8 spd.

    The race will be a days drive from here in the midwest, but an easy one, so will plan on loading up the Landcruiser w/buddies and bikes and heading toward summit county. I know the area pretty well, where there is great camping, will build a fire at night, ride in the day and precisely place ourselves to see PRO’s suffer…I hope.

  9. Walter Nash

    I have planned vacations around attending major races in the USA and Europe. What makes the experience desirable for me are things like the terrain (they seldom hold a big race in an ugly locale!), the level of competition, and the vibe of the event. Following the Tour for three weeks was like being at the Superbowl for 20+ straight days. The chance to ride the routes the pros will race over is also a big plus.

    I’ll be back in’11 at the Tour of the Gila, the TOC, and at the inaugural Quizno’s Colorado event with a bike and good friends.

    I had the chance to see some of the California stages of the Coors events back in the day and that really hooked me on spectating at bike races.

  10. michael

    I get to watch the Tour de White Rock right out my back porch every July. As the course is so compact here in hilly White Rock this year our sunday morning group ride just rode the side streets all the way around the course to take in multiple viewing spots. Watching Svein Tuft and Christian Meier lay waste to Pro/1-2 race was awesome stuff.

    As for a major event in North America to watch, have been back to my home town of Quebec City for this year’s inaugural Pro Tour race I have to say that there are few places in North America that can offer such an amazingly beautiful backdrop for an urban circuit race – again with the possibility of multiple viewing spots for the enterprising (though given the size of the crowds on hand once you find a good spot you tend to want to hunker down and not leave!).

  11. ring_offire

    I was at the Tour in ’04 as part of a Trek Travel vacation that I splurged for myself on. Our first day of riding was Alp d’Huez and, as luck would have it, our hotel was in the village at the top. The place was absolutely electric and even though the TT wasn’t for another 2 days, there were already thousands of people lining the serpentine route up the hill to the top. On the day of, the road was totally closed and they estimated a million people from all over the world were there to watch the athletes one by one ascend up to the ski resort. It was an amazing day, one I’ll never forget – being part of a world community that day was simply a stunning memory. The rest of the week was equally as impressive – fantastic weather, some beautiful and challenging riding – all culminating with an awesome viewing party in Paris to watch the final stage.

    Trek Travel may not be the cheapest outfit to take a trip like this with, but I’ve yet to hear about others that are any better. Their guides were exceptional, the hotels 4 stars at minimum and the food plentiful. Being there with them made a fantastic trip all the more better. Even if you don’t go with an outfit like them, any cycling fan needs to go see the tour at least once in their life.

  12. Dan O

    The only pro level racing I’ve witnessed in person would be the Tour of Somerville, a few times back in the ’80s, when I lived in New Jersey. Does that count?

    Oh yeah, one NORBA national during the ’90s in Washington State – where I now live.

    I guess when it comes down to it, if a pro event was close enough to drive to, I’d check it out. Otherwise, I’d rather spend the time riding myself.

    Still, someday I’d like to see the Tour de France or Paris Roubaix in person, just for the sheer spectacle and history of it all.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks everyone for your comments.

      I’ve seen a fair amount of PRO racing, and while sometimes I was there with a professional duty, I was always a fan and have never tried to pretend that I was a dispassionate observer. I write that as a prelude to my larger point: Nothing I’ve seen compares to seeing the Tour de France. The excitement, the majesty, the crowds, the scenery, the well-oiled machine, it’s all so well done and when combined with the beauty of a summer day it makes for a day you wish would never end.

      I hope to make it to Colorado for the Quizno’s. Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

  13. mark

    You mention Colorado and California, but neglected to mention Tour of Utah. OK, so maybe Levi Leipheimer, Taylor Phinney, George Hincapie, and Brent Bookwalter aren’t world-class pro cyclists like the races in states starting with the letter C may attract, but they still put on a good show. I attended every stage this year (which was made easy on the queen stage, because it literally went through my neighborhood) and even raced in the amateur crit right before the pros did laps on Main Street in Park City.

    It was an amazing event, not just because of the top-flight cyclists it attracted, but also because the fast local guys–including several friends I have raced against–got to test themselves via some of the at-large and composite team invites.

    So to answer your question regarding what would get me out to watch a bike race, the answer is simple: put on a bike race. The vacation wish list includes a trip to Belgium for the Ronde van Vlaanderen if that tells you anything.

  14. David A

    @everyone on this site go to Roland Desmet’s photoblog “Wielrennen en Andere Dingen” Yes, it is all in Flemish, butI think you can guess at the contents. Translated it means Bike racing and other things. Check uit de oude doos or from out of the old box photos…wild….He updates it every few days.

    @Mark-Ive seen the Ronde van Vlaanderen Live before, followed the race with some British guys. It reall woke me up to what PRO cycling really was…sweat and pain and suffering.

  15. Big Mikey

    Michael said it right. QC looked like an amazing race. Absolutely gorgeous city, circuit race and well-attended by pros and fans alike. I assume Montreal would be close, too. I’m going to flip over from TO to catch those next year.

    A circuit race (not a crit) or a mountain stage make the best viewing, as you have a chance to see more than a 180-strong pack roar by at 35mph. Belgium, where you can see the race from multiple points would also be worthwhile.

  16. James

    I went to France once to see Paris-Roubaix. What struck me most was how fast those guys were, even when they weren’t trying! I grew up in Nevada City, CA. so was introduced to bike racing there. Nevada City is a great race to watch because it’s not your traditional crit in that the course is a bit longer and there’s a lot of climbing. Anymore I don’t get to many bike races. I did go to my first cyclo-cross race last December here in Portland. I intend to see more CX races when I have the opportunity…they’re a lot of fun.

  17. Doug P

    You know you’re a bike junkie if;
    Your tires have a higher thread count than your sheets.
    Your vacations are either to go to see races, go riding,
    or scouting out a future ride at the very least.

  18. SinglespeedJarv

    Late to the party again.

    A couple of Tour de France, a week in Flanders for the classics. Holidays are always based around cycling, what else are they for?

    Next year may see a return to Flanders and possibly Plouey or The Worlds

  19. Ron

    Going to be in Europe this February and March. Hope I can stretch it a few weeks and see some of the early spring races. A classic would blow my mind, but heck, just a lower-level stage race would be the experience of a lifetime for me.

    CO and CA are pretty far from me, but I think I’ll make it to DC for the Giro start in 2012.

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