Last week, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge—the wildly popular and successful bike race that made its debut in Colorado this past summer—announced that it would be offering a “Race Experience” for amateurs. This race experience will be a little different, perhaps, than you might imagine. Sure, you’ll have access to the VIP tents in finishing towns, complete with great views of field sprints, buffet eats, and plenty of beer. But before you get to the tent on each of the seven days of the race, you will ride that day’s course with “a privileged few” other amateur riders. That means that you'll likely ride roughly 700 or so very challenging miles (the exact route has not yet been released). With some nasty climbs. At altitude. In one week. And for that honor, you will pay the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and its partner for this endeavor, the Colorado Springs–based Carmichael Training Systems, the not insignificant sum of $10,500.
One of the great things about recreational cycling is that it’s not exceedingly difficult to compare yourself to the pros. It’s doubtful that you’ll ever get to swing a bat against Tim Lincecum. You’ll probably never take a handoff from Tim Tebow. On the other hand, you can ride up Lookout Mountain, feel the pain in your legs, and compare your time, to say, Boulder’s Tom Danielson (of the Boulder-based Garmin-Barracuda pro cycling squad), who just happened to place ninth last year in the Tour de France.
But do you need to pay $10,500 to “eat, sleep, and live like professional cyclists for all seven days of the race,” as the USAPCC Race Experience press release puts it? (Post-race massages are included, “just like the pros.”) Of course not. As cycling in America increasingly becomes a sport for the one-percenters, surely, some well-funded fanatics will shell out the bucks and join the “experience.” I, on the other hand, will be happy to catch some parts of the race on TV, other parts in person. And I’ll be happy to roll out of my garage in Denver and ride west to Lookout Mountain, where I can suffer as much as I want—without dropping a single dollar.
—Image courtesy of USA Pro Cycling Challenge