For the first hour of art and live music Tuesday, the vibe on Carbondale’s Main Street was like any other casual downtown event. Kids played, couples strolled, and old friends greeted each other.
By 11:30 a.m., the anticipation began to build for the USA Pro Challenge bicycle racers to zip through town. Spectators scattered to the sidelines, with a few opting for rooftops and high windows, leaving the streets clear except for “Carbondale,” “Save the Thompson Divide” and “Go Keegan” in sidewalk chalk.
Around noon, the first support vehicles blazed through. One pulled up in front of Town restaurant and, via rooftop loudspeaker, an announcer prepped the crowd.
“We’re showing off your town on TV around the world,” he said.
Eager to make a good impression, someone from the restaurant brought him a chocolate chip cookie.
“I love Carbondale!” he exclaimed.
Then, it was back to business.
“What you’re about to see is a NASCAR race with some bikes in it,” he quipped.
Although he said the mountains were limiting radio communication, he knew the racers’ average speed was 28 mph, and the group was fairly tightly packed with Kiel Reijnen in the lead. It would all be over before the crowd could say “whoosh.”
In the end, two hours of waiting came down to about 30 seconds of spectating. Ty Magner led the way through the sprint finish at Fourth and Main streets, with Reijnen and Jure Kocjan at his heels. Er, wheels.
The main pack followed a few seconds behind, then the fleet of support vehicles flashed past. By the time the music started back up, the racers were already headed south on Highway 133 toward McClure Pass — where, rumor had it, a man in a monkey suit was waiting with a Thompson Divide banner.