Paul getting ready for the ride of his life.
When I received word that I would be riding in the Champion System team car for stage one of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the only instruction I was given by our Fuji Bikes rep was to bring a bottle to pee in because the cars wouldn’t stop. Slightly nervous about holding my bladder for the next six hours, I arrived at the team staging area for the race. I was greeted by the team's support staff and invited to look around and see the gear they had on hand. The Champion System team rides beautiful blue and Orange Fuji Altamiras. Each rider had their bike as well as a spare on top of one of the team cars.
As the team got ready to head for the starting line, I was able to watch as team general manager, Ed Beamon, gathered his guys to go over the race strategy for the day. Let’s just say there is a lot more that goes into a professional bike race then, “Hey guys, let's ride really fast today!”
The route for the day was set to cover 131 miles with almost 9,000 feet of climbing. With temperatures in the high 90’s, the guys really had to suffer through the ride. Throughout the day I was impressed with the teamwork that goes on amongst the groups as they send someone back to the car to collect water for the rest of the team (the number of water bottles these guys fit into a jersey is pretty crazy).
After a few “feedings,” I asked Champion System assistant sport director, Burk Swindlehurst, who was driving the car, how they decide who comes back for the bottles. He told me that it is basically a stalemate until someone cracks. He said all the guys are thirsty, and whoever breaks will signal for “feeding.”
A quick wheel change
Team mechanic Gerd Kodanik quickly jumped in and said with a smile, “You usually don’t see Contodor coming for the bottles.”
Speaking of Gerd, the highlight of my day was watching him work on the bikes during the race. Whenever a rider would have a mechanical, they would ride next to the passenger side of the car and tell Gerd what was going on. The rider would then place his hand on the window sill of the front window while Gerd would hang out the back window and make the adjustment to the bike. I watched as he fixed everything from a rear derailleur to adjusting the height of a rider’s seatpost. Very impressive.
As we started the final climb of the day I watched as the peloton split into bunches of solo riders. Suddenly there were cars and bikes weaving in and out of each other as the riders were simply suffering up this final climb. I thought that was going to be the craziest part of the day. Little did I know things were about to get even more interesting!
The final climb
As we dropped down out of the canyon on the final descent into the finish line the speeds got crazy. I peeked over at the speedometer and we were well over 50 mph and struggling to keep up with the riders. The turns in the canyon had a posted speed limit of 15 mph, and I was pretty sure I was going to die right there in Ogden canyon. Luckily was made it safely through and finished the race.
I would like to give a special thanks to Team Champion System and Fuji Bikes for allowing me the opportunity to ride along for a great day of bike racing!
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that I didn’t have to use the bottle I was instructed to bring.