The opening day of the third edition of the USA Pro Challenge offered a lot of what is good about bicycle racing in Colorado — mountains, good weather and good racing. It was a prime reason why the event has come into such strong prominence so quickly.
Here are five quick, random observations from stage 1, the 2 1/2-hour trek around stunning nature of Snowmass, Woody Creek and Aspen.
1. Chris Froome wasn’t kidding. He said he wasn’t going to compete for the overall USA Pro Challenge title in the aftermath of responsibility following his victory three weeks ago in the Tour de France. He wasn’t kidding. But 77th in the field, nearly five minute back on the opening day? Wonder if the race organization, which solicited Sky’s appearance in the event, is OK with that?
2. Interesting “celebrities” at the race on opening day: Former NBA great and current network broadcaster Bill Walton and a guy named Lance Armstrong watching the event with his girlfriend. And former Tour de France riders Ron Kiefel, a seven-time Tour de France rider and Tour of Italy stage winner, is at the race, escorting VIPs.
3. Team Sky looks good in its black kits, but it’s not exactly the best color in the heat.
4. Pretty strong rumors that at least two U.S.-based teams competing in the event will lose their sponsorships at the end of the season. Just what the sport needs . . . more pro cyclists out of work.
5. Peter Sagan always seems surprised when he wins a race. He wins. He smiles. He wins. He smiles. And, in case he doesn’t get it, he’s among a few cyclists now carrying the future of a sport on tenuous turf on their shoulders.