My wife and daughter caught the finish of Stage 6 in the 2011 Tour de France. They aren't really cyclists, but the drama, energy and festival atmosphere of the race enticed them to travel out of their way to see what all the fuss was about. They were not disappointed. And, at the end of the day, they had a far more complete understanding of why the Tour is important to competitors, spectators, the town of Lisieux, and the entire country of France.
Fast-forward to today: These newly minted cycling fans can hardly wait to see the same cyclists they cheered in France hurtling out of Garden of the Gods toward the finish of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge prologue.
I believe cyclists and non-cyclists alike recognize the incredible athleticism of these riders, competing in what is arguably the hardest sport in the world. It's not played in a stadium. There are no huddles or timeouts. Cyclists plan strategy while hurtling down mountain passes (or in our case, Ridge Road!) at high speeds. And no barriers separate competitors from spectators, increasing unpredictability.
The Challenge's arrival means that Colorado Springs has an opportunity to be taken seriously as a center for world-class cycling. This is our time, this is our chance. Let's do it.
Michael Hannigan is the executive director of Pikes Peak Community Foundation.
As a mountain biking enthusiast and a Colorado Springs native, I am delighted that our community will have an opportunity to showcase our spectacular local landscape to the nation and the world via the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. I want Colorado Springs and Colorado, more generally, to become known as a great place to ride — a place that attracts and supports bicycle enthusiasts (amateur to professional) from around the country and globe.
Our state is already among the fittest in the nation, but quite frankly, what qualifies as "fit" is a fairly low bar. Connecting cycling with good health is in everyone's best interest. Whether this inspires a child to get on a bike for the first time, or encourages more of us to bike to destinations around town instead of getting in our cars, this race offers these opportunities and more.
(Plus, I've just been depressed since the Tour de France concluded, and this race gives me a new focus and the opportunity to lay eyes on my beloved Schleck brothers ... right in our own backyard.)
Allez, allez, allez!
Cari Davis occasionally rides her bike to work as Memorial Health System's director of communications and marketing.
I'm very excited to have the USA Pro Cycling Challenge coming to Colorado, with the prologue right here in Colorado Springs. I've meet Tour de France winners Greg LeMond, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong.
I've ridden with many top bike racers, including local Danny Pate. I've even ridden Independence Pass — part of the Challenge's Stage 2 — several times. It's extremely tough but you're surrounded by the beauty of the Colorado high country.
Though I've done all this, I've never been at a race of this level. It'll be awesome to see the stars of the sport riding the same streets I've been riding since I was a kid — in fact, the course passes three blocks from where I grew up.
Hometown for me or not, the pros will get to do something I've never been able to do. They'll get to take the left turn from Ridge Road onto West Pikes Peak Avenue as fast as they can.
Although I've never done it, I can imagine it.
Take the turn too slow and they'll lose valuable seconds.
Take it too fast and they'll lose skin.
Rob Lucas has ridden his bike thousands of miles around the Colorado Springs region, and blogs regularly at ultrarob.com.