Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Well, that certainly went well.

By any measure, the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge was an epic success. I can’t remember and, in fact I can’t even imagine, an inaugural event of the size and magnitude of this race going any better. Kudos for the organizers, riders, spectators and broadcasters are well-deserved as just about every aspect of the event went smoother than could be expected.

With the exception of a bad patch near a cattle crossing outside of Crested Butte and a few complaints about how difficult it was to cross the street here in Aspen, there seemed to be hardly any glitches of note. To pull this off in the first year of a 500-mile event took skill, organization and a heap of good luck.

Beyond the organization, the racing itself was stellar. It was exciting, it was close, and in the end it came down to a spectacular ride by 37-year old Levi Leipheimer who took the overall Yellow Jersey by 11 seconds after 20 hours and 24 seconds in the saddle. Leipheimer also won the Tour of Utah and the Tour of Switzerland, making him the King of the Rockies, King of the Wasatch and King of the Swiss Alps all in just one year. Extraordinary.

Then there was the overall performance of America’s best riders with the top five finishers and seven of the top 15 finishers all being from these shores. Despite the presence of the best riders from the recently completed Tour de France, the Americans rose to the occasion.

And how about Aspen’s own Alex Hagman? While he finished 42nd in the stage that ended here, he rallied over the rest of the race and ultimately finished 31st overall. That was two spots better than Tour de France podium finisher Andy Schleck. It was a great week for Hagman, who rode for the Jelly Belly Cycling Team and will surely be back next year for the race.

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As good as the racing was, the publicity generated for the state of Colorado in general and the resort towns in particular is pure gold. Imagine people in Brussels and Milan and Paris who tuned into the event and witnessed the race as it passed through the majesty of the Rockies. There may not have been a better-televised travelogue promoting this area ever. All this despite the camera transmission malfunctions that plagued the second stage over Independence Pass. I predict that next summer we will see even more European tourists turning up for the race.

If it sounds like I am gushing, it’s because I am. I vote we put the local technical committee of the USA Pro Cycling Championships in charge of everything that’s important here in Aspen.

Like maybe the airport.