Stage two of the USA Pro Challenge was 105.4 miles from Aspen to Crested Butte. In contrast to the picturesque weather of first day of racing in Aspen, day two would bring pain and suffering down on the riders in the form of hard rain and cold temperatures.
They have a saying in Colorado – “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.” Things were gloomy at the start of stage two in Aspen, foreshadowed the day to come.
Riders stay as relaxed as possible before the crack of the starting pistol, listening to music in the team car, stretching, and telling jokes. The race will provide plenty of pain and stress, so its best not to let it seep into pre-race rituals.
The USA Pro Challenge is the crown jewel of costumed bike racing fans. Stormtroopers, bananas, lots of monkeys, and crazy wigged individuals crammed the climbs on the route to Crested Butte.
Aspen trees are a freak of nature – they share one root system and are considered among the world’s largest living organisms. They blanket huge swaths of the Rocky Mountains.
Carter Jones displayed an awesome tuck, reaching over 65 MPH on the descent of McClure Pass. Flexibility on the bicycle is a trait of every great climber’.
After a gloomy but rain free first half of the race, ominous clouds began to gather in force as the peloton moved to higher elevations. Bike racing’s unpredictability and difficulty are some of it’s best traits and today would not dissapoint – Rain fell hard on the dirt roads and steep gradients of McClure Pass, the day’s biggest climb.
Suffering fell upon the peloton like a block of lead on the way up McClure Pass. It rained, and then rained harder, and the narrow dirt roads made it difficult for riders to reach cars and pick up precious rain gear. Everyone was soaked. The 9980′ summit brought temperatures in the low fifties.
A miscalculated race neutralization left the peloton parked at the bottom of the pass. Originally called before the rider’s crested McClure, the information never reached riders and the peloton sped to the base, where they were greeted by a police roadblock and race stoppage. Needless to say, a few minutes standing still in the freezing rain did the riders no favors.
After the race restarted, it was a short 10 kilometers to the steep finish at Crested Butte ski resort. Carter stayed locked inside the lead group, but the wait in the rain had sapped his legs completely. He suffered to the top, losing 30 seconds to stage winner Alex Howes.
Remember that saying about Colorado? Like magic, as soon as the riders had finished the brutal day, the sun emerged. Rain conituned, but lightly, and eventually stopped entirely. The riders enjoyed the newfound sunshine from the comfort of their hotel beds.