Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Much to my surprise, I found myself watching the USA Pro Cycling Challenge last week, and I don’t mean just stepping out my front door and seeing the racers whiz by on Wednesday afternoon, but pretty much of the whole thing including the live stream until 2 p.m., when channel 29 picked it up, and the tail end of the grand finale was on NBC.
I only got the tail end of the last race because it started (and ended) sooner than I expected. By that time, my back was killing me from hunching over the computer, so I had given up on the stream.
Each day was a bit like watching a 100-inning baseball game guaranteed to have three men on base with three runs and three outs in a tied final inning. Yawn, yawn, yawn and then a lot of excitement at the very end. I can’t explain what got into me – I’ve never watched a minute of the Tour de France – I just got hooked.
There were problems with the filming, lots of dizzying stops, starts and blurs, and the picture was lost completely as the bikers were coming down Independence Pass. A friend commented, “Mick is going to be really pissed if they don’t show the racers coming into Aspen!”
I don’t know when they got the picture back because I went outside to see what seemed like 100 support cars and support motorcycles and apparently every state trooper in Colorado (all lit up and flashing) come into town at excessive speeds. It was rainy and cold enough to start snowing.
Then ZOT, the head pack of five or six racers flashed by, followed by more cars and motorcycles and state troopers, and then WHIZ, the next group flashed past. We retreated to the warm house and the TV set (the picture was back, the winners at the podium), but it still wasn’t over – a couple more groups of laggards were visible through my front window.
To me, the most appalling part of the race-watching was the behavior of the spectators stationed at strategic points along the way (top of Independence Pass, coming into the various towns). The fans at the finish lines were thankfully contained by barriers, or the riders would have risked death. Where barriers were absent, screaming fans surged into the road waving flags and signs in the bikers’ faces, dressed as Uncle Sam, gorillas, frogs, dressed in fat suits or Speedos, and in general acting like complete idiots (all men, ahem) at a frat party.
“I bet the Europeans don’t act like that,” I said to my co-worker David.
“No, the Europeans are even worse,” he said.
Of course I quickly got very sick of the ads over and over and over. The one for Coca-Cola was the best. There were lots of biker ads and ads for Colorado the state, Breckenridge, Glenwood Springs, Crested Butte and one for the Snowmass Club – but where was Aspen?
I saw exactly one Aspen ad. (Where did that lodging tax money go, hey?) Even with the racers and crew staying here there were empty hotel rooms, and the early days of the race would have been a good time to send out an invitation.
There was one ironic environmental ad shown over and over about how many plastic bottles are thrown away – enough to circle the globe umpteen times etc. – then they’d flash back to the race showing the bikers hurling their water bottles and other trash left and right over the banks of the highways. Surely NASA could figure out a way for them to drink their own urine.
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