Since your first race took place in 2011, how did it become such a phenomenon so fast? Its success is extraordinary. We have some pretty magical ingredients in Colorado. The outdoor passion and lifestyle we have here, the beauty of the towns we race through, and also the challenging terrain. This is the hardest cycling race in the world. We go to elevations twice that of the Tour de France, climbing to over 14,000 feet. Another important factor is that watching cycling is free. It’s easy for a family to go out and see the best cyclists in the world and it doesn’t break the bank. I understand Colorado fans are quite enthusiastic. I think the fans here are more passionate and loud than any race I’ve ever been to. It’s almost like going to a playoff game seven days a week. The riders always comment about the big crowds, the noise, and all of the enthusiasm. It’s a special feeling and it’s so appreciated. It must be an art form trying to televise the race. How complicated is it? Cycling might be one of the most difficult sports to cover on television because it’s a 700-mile moving field of play, unlike shooting a hockey or basketball game where you’ve got fixed cameras. Our cameras are in helicopters, airplanes, motorbikes, and on the ground so it’s a very expensive and challenging production. I think in the not too distant future we’re going to see cameras on every single bike or athlete, which will bring a new dimension to watching the sport. To see the athlete’s view of a descent down Independence Pass at 60 mph will be quite engaging. Do cyclists bring a variety of bikes for Colorado’s terrain? The top riders use a different bike based on the expected performance of the day. They bring about five or six bikes each and the amount of money invested in those bikes is astronomical. Some of them are in the $15-20K range and they’re all customized. Is the cycling world still fighting the damage that Lance Armstrong created? Yes, there is still a bit of a cloud and lingering conversation about it. 2013 was incredibly hard, to be polite. However, all of our sponsors stuck with us and most of our relationships are multi-year. We run a very safe and clean race from an anti-doping standpoint. We test our athletes at higher levels than we’re expected to by international cycling. What’s the hardest part of your job? It’s determining the route each year. We change it to keep it compelling for the athletes and the fans, but also to showcase our state to the world because we’re broadcasting in over 175 countries. It’s really a postcard to the world from Colorado. And what are your biggest nightmares? These would be the rare events that are completely out of our control, like weather, particularly if it results in a crash that puts someone in harm’s way. What would surprise people about professional cycling? The athletes are not very big. It’s almost like standing next to a jockey at the Kentucky Derby. However, they’re some of the best athletes in the world. They’re on their bikes doing the equivalent of a marathon seven days in a row. They’re averaging 100-plus miles a day over some of the most challenging elevations and terrains in the world. And the pain and suffering that they go through is really unlike any other sport. Is there a certain cyclist personality? Yes, they’re great people. Out of all the sports I’ve had the good fortune to work with, my favorite athletes are cyclists. They’re gifted, they’re disciplined, and they’re also very grateful for the support they get around their sport. For you, what part of the race is the biggest thrill? It’s race week. You know, we work 51 weeks to enjoy one. I get to ride in the official car each day and feel part of the competition, meet people when going through our wonderful communities, and just get right in the midst of the excitement. As we like to say about our race, there are no days off and no places to hide. I think that says it all about professional cycling in Colorado.
BIO: Carol Abrams is a corporate art consultant, a writer, and an educator.
From all of us at Colorado Expression, #HappyMemorialDay!
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