Yes, the skinniest guys in the world are biking through Colorado once again. You’re not going to see them for long as they zip by, but the towns they start and end in are the stars as well.
With Ski Mountains everywhere, the Maroon Bells towering in the background and some of the best fly-fishing in the world, Aspen and Snowmass are two jewels of Colorado. When an event such as this plays out in this jet-setters paradise there is bound to be Big Iron in town. Big Iron means the airport is stuffed full of Lear and Gulfstream private jets and the stars are shining both day and night. Jim Birrell, designer of the USA Pro Challenge courses, says this first stage is the prettiest stretch he has seen in the three years of the Pro Challenge. He was talking scenery, but you know the Aspen crowd will be the prettiest as well.
Day two starts in Aspen, climbs the ridiculously steep Independence Pass and ends up in Breckenridge. Now, Breck may be known as the first town in Colorado to legalize marijuana, but don’t hold that against them; these folks are fit and tough. Yeah, they sell t-shirts that call Breck a “Drinking town with a skiing problem,” but really, they are very athletic. Yes, the town is full of bars and clubs that party all night but honestly they are…. never mind.
The Boat has produced more Olympic athletes than any other town in the nation. That seems a fitting place to hold a bike race with the best in the world. Steamboat is as unassuming as Aspen is snooty. You can still get into any restaurant in town wearing jeans and when they talk “Big Iron” they probably mean of the branding kind. Instead of Gucci and Ralph Lauren stores, Steamboat boasts F.M. Light and Sons, where everybody and we do mean everybody, buys their cowboy hats.
Home to ex-presidents, money managers, and other folks who’d rather not rub elbows with the masses, Beaver Creek is striving to become an all-season resort. I don’t think you should call it a town when it doesn’t even have a gas station, but the captains of industry who sometimes visit their second homes here, have people to deal with that anyway. It’s a beautiful area, an awesome ski resort and the town of Avon where it is actually located does have one gas station over by the highway.
Vail, always in competition with Aspen over who is ritzier, loses out to Aspen, not that Vail doesn’t try. With a Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and plenty of restaurants that won’t even let most of us in, Vail exudes the top-shelf life as well as anyone. It also has some of the best skiing in North America, a McDonald’s and, count-em, two gas stations. They also have one of the best Mexican restaurants around, La Cantina, located in the bus station/ parking garage. I don’t know if Aspen even has a bus station.
This stage starts in Loveland, known as the town you send your valentines to so they can be postmarked “Loveland.” What, you’ve never done that? After winding up the canyons to Estes Park and hopefully avoiding the elk herds known to hang there, this stage ends back down the hill in Fort Collins. The Fort, as absolutely no-one calls it anymore, is home to some mighty fine breweries as well from the New Belgium Brewery-makers of Fat Tire- to a small, little brewery called Budweiser just north of town. I imagine a few brews will be tipped after this stage.
Known as the “Mile High City,” this still pertains to the elevation of the area, but thanks for asking. The race week ends right between the Colorado Capital Building-where the dome is currently being cleaned and refurbished and Civic Center Park-where the drug dealers and homeless are undergoing a makeover as well. Home to the Denver Broncos who are also playing that same evening, Denver has a vibrant downtown full of fine dining establishments. For those skinny bicyclists’ sake, now that the race is over, somebody please buy these guys a meal.
by Michael Ryan