Courtesy of Flik'r.
Colorado's first ProTour level stage race in 23 years wrapped up yesterday, and I'm pleased to report it exceeded most expectations. Having attracted serious star power to the start line, including half of the top ten finishers from the Tour de France plus the likes of George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, Ivan Basso, the race was something of a success even before it began.
The big winner was RadioShack's Levi Leipheimer, who put on an impressive display of brute strength and tactical prowess to win two stages (Stage 1 to Crested Butte and the Stage 3 time trial) and seal up the overall in spite of his young, fairly inexperienced team. The other beneficiary was team Liquigas-Cannondale, which took three out of six stage wins with sprinters Elia Viviani (Stages 4 and 5) and Daniel Oss (Stage 6). And the runner-up award goes to the hapless but forever-likeable team Garmin-Cervélo: Tom Danielson was sitting pretty going into Stage 3 before a bad case of gastroenteritis gave his GC hopes a boot to the gut, while Christian Vande Velde lost the prologue by an excruciating two seconds and missed out on the time trial win by an even-more-agonizing 58/100ths of a second. Those near misses, among others, were a boon for the spectators though, as the tight racing made for some exciting stages.
Successes aside, the inaugural USA Pro Cycling challenge wasn't perfect. Over coffee this morning, as I watched the Versus recap of Stage 6, I started making a list of my gripes, critiques, and quibbles. I offer them now, if not humbly, at least with the hope that someone who matters might be listening and take a bit of this into account for next year. If not, I'll still be out there watching anyway.
1. First of all, what's up with the terrible coverage on Versus? I watched a number of stages firsthand, and when I saw the recap later that day I barely even recognized the race purportedly being covered. Case in point Stage 2, where the network didn't even show the pivotal moment the racers crested Independence Pass, and Stage 6, in which they neglected to mention (much less air) the high-power break that formed over Lookout. Come on guys: at least give us a recap of the action. And another thing, how about a bit of off-air coaching for Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen? Their pronunciations of local towns ("Bona Vista" and "Saleeda") were entertaining, I suppose, but Liggett's reference to the American tent ("I think they call them wigwams in this part of the world.") left a bit to be desired.