They say that cycling is a terrible spectator sport, but that depends on where you’re sitting. On Thursday, thanks to a gracious invitation from Team Garmin-Cervélo, I had the good fortune to watch the USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s Stage 3 time trial from the passenger seat of the trail car that followed Christian Vande Velde up the course. And I’m quite comfortable telling you that there’s nothing—not front row seats at a cage fight, nor even cowboy hat-cam footage of bull riding—more exhilarating than what I witnessed.
The 10-mile alpine time trial up Vail Pass was always going to be one of the best stages to watch: compared to the five-second-long flash and blaze of the passing peloton on a road stage, the TT would treat spectators to an almost three-hour-long stream of racers. It was clear that fans realized this, as cars festooned with carbon bikes choked the highways from Denver to Vail as soon as the sun was up and the bike path from Summit County to the finish on the pass was clogged with picnic-wielding cyclotourists all day. I was among the legion of expectant fans pouring into Vail, though rather than scrabble around in the trenches to stake out a good spot I beelined for the Garmin-Cervélo team bus.