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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (VN) — I tweeted that stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge was supposed to be an easy one, and I was warned that the course was “not easy,” due to “hard rollers.” Now, when I say that a stage is easy, I mean that everything in life is relative. The stage was not easy compared to eating a cookie, for example, but it was easy if the previous stage was 200 kilometers, and climbed Independence Pass. So no, it wasn’t truly easy. You would not have finished. But it wasn’t as hard other bike races in which I’ve recently competed, which made it downright pleasant in my opinion.
Now that we’re on the same page, I can discuss the bike race. Another climb right out of the box established the early break, and then Garmin rode a steady tempo on the long downhillish part (but headwindy, so it didn’t look like fun), while the rest of us socialized and ate.
After the climb, I sold a Bissell vacuum to Fabio Calabria (Novo Nordisk), for his girlfriend Becca (also Novo Nordisk). It won’t cure their diabetes, but they have that under control already, and the carpets will sparkle.
Around 60km into the stage, we passed a fishing tackle shop with a very comical name. I was riding next to Mike Friedman (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) when I saw the sign, and I got so excited that I stuttered when I tried to point it out to him. He probably thinks I made it up, but never in my wildest imagination could I come up with that.
Before the feedzone, everyone looks for spectators to toss bottles to. They get a souvenir, and we don’t have to feel like we’re littering. I always wonder if spectators actually want the bottles, or if they just duck and wonder why we’re pelting them with plastic at 30 mph, but I got my answer when Tom Soladay (Optum) saw a guy standing on top of an RV on the side of the road. Tom threw the bottle straight up into the air, and the guy caught it! These kinds of things are very exciting when you’re sitting on the bike all day.
I also got to catch up with Ian Boswell (Sky). He saw my SRM head unit mounted on my handlebars, and told me to angle it down more, so it would be parallel to the ground, which would make it more aerodynamic. The computer is maybe 2×3 inches, but I pushed it down a hair, and the power on the screen went from about 340 to maybe 275 or so. Such an energy saver! It was all I could do to keep myself from attacking and winning the stage solo. Thanks, Ian!
At the end, Jens Voigt’s legs gave out, angry for all those times he told them to shut up. Or, maybe it was all the dudes chasing him, and his legs did an ok job. I don’t know. There was a bunch sprint, which Peter Sagan won (Cannondale), and a spectator lost, as the fans edged a little too far into the street, causing a scary, high-speed pileup after which the aforementioned Mr. Friedman was made to ride across the line with half a jersey hanging from his left shoulder.
Dinner included live country music (they’re into John Denver around here), and a gift bag from Steamboat Springs, with a sheriff’s badge, just in case we run out of safety pins for our numbers.