COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (VN) — It may have looked like biblical floods had swamped the city of Colorado Springs during stage 1 of the Colorado Classic—assuming you were able to watch the race action on television, as lightning and violent storms prevented live coverage to be broadcast for much of the race.
But that’s not what it was like inside the peloton. The riders who spoke with VeloNews after the race claimed the conditions presented minimal problems. It was just another chaotic bike race—just a little wetter than usual.
“It was hard rain but it wasn’t cold,” said Hugh Carthy (Cannondale-Drapac), whose teammate Taylor Phinney attacked late in the race, earning the most-aggressive rider’s jersey. “Sometimes in the rain it makes it a bit safer in ways—less people fighting up front. On the whole it was okay. We took a couple of digs with Taylor [Phinney] and Will [Clarke] at the front so it was not bad.”
For one team in particular, the weather felt like home. Team Rwanda is racing the Colorado Classic with six visiting African riders.
“It was so nice. Just like in Rwanda!” said Gasore Hategeka (Team Rwanda).
For many others who grew up in Colorado or live and train here regularly, they’ve come to expect the unexpected and often violent rain of the Rocky Mountain state.
Sepp Kuss (Rally), who was raised in Durango and now calls Boulder home, felt at ease with the conditions. Kuss called the storm, “typical Colorado weather.”
“Once the roads were completely wet it was fine,” Kuss said. “At first I thought it was going to stay dry in sections but then I was like, ‘Oh no, we’re in Colorado. There’s no way we’re just going to get one type of weather.’”
Colorado native Alex Howes (Cannondale) had a similar point of view. From his perspective the peloton was chasing the rain for much of the race, rather than the other way around. “But we had some serious flooding action. So there was some deep water but it adds to the race I guess. That’s Colorado in the later summer isn’t it? They scheduled this [race] perfect every day for the rain,” he said.
While the racers may have felt confident in the safety of the conditions, the decision wasn’t up to them. Behind the scenes, race organizers scrambled to understand the conditions on course and make the call on whether to neutralize the race.
Race director Jim Birrell was on course when he was informed by Colorado State Patrol (CSP) of the approaching weather. Birrell drove back to the start/finish area to relay weather information via radio to the race caravan.
“When the thunder came in [with two laps to go], we were radioing the CSP out on the road, and we were prepared if we had to neutralize,” Birrell said. “We emptied the seats of the cars out there in case we had to get the riders to a safe area.”
Ultimately, Birrell chose not to neutralize the race. Because predicted strong winds never materialized, he was confident the race could go on. If rain plus lighting plus wind had hit the race, it would have been a different outcome.
Instead, the peloton stormed down the finish straight for a mass gallop on wet city streets. John Murphy (Holowesko-Citadel) took the win, with Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare) and Logan Owen (Axeon-Hagens Berman) rounding out the podium.
“It was dry for the last few laps and then we saw that big death cloud coming in and we knew it was going to be pretty gnarly,” Owen said. “It made it easier for me because everybody was scared to fight to be up there.”