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Rain doesn't dampen spirit of crowd at USA Pro Challenge in Colorado Springs
There were plenty of cowbells to be heard and a few umbrellas to be seen on Tejon Street as fans cheered cyclists whizzing past in the blink of an eye.
The USA Pro Challenge finished Stage 5 in downtown Colorado Springs on Friday afternoon. The intermittent raindrops didn’t seem to keep many people away.
“I don’t think anybody noticed,” Brian Farris, the chief operating officer of USA Pro Challenge, said with a smile.
Crowds flocked to downtown, where dozens of vendors sold cycling equipment and gear and fans watched the race progress through Ute Pass and Garden of the Gods on the numerous big screens set up in the area. The finish of the race was the highlight, leading into a downtown festival on Friday evening.
Mayor Steve Bach estimated there were more than 10,000 fans in downtown for the finish of the race.
“There’s a tremendous amount of energy,” Bach said. “It’s just another wonderful experience for the people of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. It brings our community together again.”
The sheer number of fans was impressive, but their enthusiasm is what struck Steve Brunner, who is the press operations director for the event. He lives in Colorado Springs, and said he has worked every major cycling event since 1989, and the crowds this year have been as large and loud as any he can remember.
“I think cycling in some ways is hitting the masses,” Brunner said. “There’s some crossover from lifestyle to sport. I think the other thing is Colorado has been waiting for an event this size, so I think some of it is pent-up demand.”
Brunner said he thinks after this year, Colorado has established itself as a great destination for large cycling events.
“The atmosphere is clearly great, and goes beyond just the track,” Brunner said.
Brunner pointed out that the athletes have expressed their gratitude for the crowds during the event. Brunner said Vincenzo Nibali, who finished third in this year’s Tour de France, expressed to him that he wants to win a stage in the USA Pro Challenge to repay that enthusiasm.
“In Colorado, the people are surprisingly excited about the sport of cycling and I want to show respect for that,” Nibali said in a statement dispersed by the event’s media relations staff.
Everyone involved seemed pleased with the success of the event, particularly with the turnout in the Springs.
“We couldn’t be happier,” Farris said. “The event has been awesome. The energy of this crowd has been phenomenal. Way before the riders getting here, the cheering and the excitement - the energy and passion this crowd brings is second to none.”
Contact Frank Schwab: 476-4891
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