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A memorable day in Avon

CVR USAPCC Evans KA 8-26-11
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AVON, Colorado – As a spectator at the Tour de France, you can forget about getting close enough to even see the riders before a stage begins, let alone shake their hands or get autographs.

That’s why New York City resident and France native Fanny Bourdais, who has been a spectator at the Tour de France, is so impressed with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. As she waited for the racers to sign autographs at Avon’s autograph alley Friday, she said that this race is truly a great atmosphere.

“Here, it’s more accessible,” Bourdais said. “It’s way more accessible than in France.”



The access is what has made the race stand apart from the Tour de France, especially because it’s here in America, giving American fans the opportunity to see a sport that has such a devoted European following here at home.

Nancy Lively, of Denver, has never been a groupie for anything before, but she has found herself traveling to see the cyclists and get their autographs. She waited at Avon’s autograph alley Friday morning so she could get autographs from Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie.



“It’s a very different experience being on site, because on TV you don’t see the behind-the-scenes activity,” Lively said.

Lively made hotel reservations in Vail months ago in preparation for stages three and four in the Vail Valley. She went to the prologue in Colorado Springs on Monday and took pictures of the teams and the racers back where the team buses were parked. She watched the time trial and the podium ceremony in Vail Thursday, and Friday she was focused on getting autographs.

“We’re trying to get the full experience,” Lively said.

For Karl Prager, of Palisade, the experience was already beyond his expectations as of Friday.

“This is a dream. This is as close as I’ll ever get to the Tour de France, and it’s maybe better,” Prager said. “Yesterday, volunteering for the time trial, as one of the funnest days of my life.”

You could see the fun on the faces of thousands of spectators in Vail and Avon on Thursday and Friday. There they were, watching the best road cyclists in the world right here in Colorado.

Eleven-year-old Collin Wilson, of Avon, was right up front waiting for autographs and taking it all in. He’s a cycling fan and watches the Tour de France on TV, and he was focused on getting autographs of the greats such as Cadel Evans, the Schleck brothers and Vande Velde.

“I follow cycling a lot so I know a lot about it,” Collin said. “It’s really cool getting to see these people. It’s really cool to see them here in Colorado because it’s where we live, so it’s exciting.”

Max Nieberger, 13, of Erie, got tons of autographs Friday on a USA Pro Cycling Challenge T-shirt as the racers came through autograph alley.

“I think it’s really cool because I’m a junior cyclist and these [racers] are one of the reasons I got into cycling in the first place,” Max said. “So it’s a really neat experience for me.”

It’s a neat experience for the professionals, too. The racers have been enjoying the enthusiasm they’ve felt from the fans from stage to stage, many have said.

Vande Velde said Thursday that the atmosphere has been great. He said all of the people who rode their bikes up Vail Pass to watch the time trial seemed like a pilgrimage from Denver.

“It was neat to be a part of that,” he said.

And that’s what the race has been about this first year – it’s about being a part of something that many think could be the next biggest thing in American cycling.

“It’s unbelievable,” Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said Friday. “We have so many great things that the Tour de France has now, even though it’s a first-year event. It allows people to have really a much closer accessibility to the stars of the show, the cyclists, and it’s exciting.”

lglendenning@vaildaily.com.


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