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No doubt about it, extraordinary is the word to describe the five days of the inaugural Exergy Tour, "The POWER of ladies professional cycling." Planned or unplanned, on or off the bike, these memorial days of battle for the yellow leader's jersey and specialty jerseys of Best Young Rider, Sprint and Queen of the Mountain, were top shelf.
For me, it began upon arrival at the Boise baggage claim where I met up with the rest of the Coaching staff and athletes of the Canadian National Team two days before the race. When the hotel shuttle left the airport, only people were on board. No luggage. No bikes. It would be another day before baggage dribbled in and the mechanic could transform bike parts into Time Trial bikes for the opening Prologue. I'm sure there were many anxious moments with this disruption of pre-race prep but it wasn't evident publicly. Perhaps there was comfort in sharing the loss.
Loss came to another team in a big way the following morning. Team Tibco's mobile bike shop had a good cleaning during the night and all the Time Trial bikes were taken. Hot on the trail of these bikes, worth a down payment on a home, were the local police to find the bikes u-locked to a couple posts at the university down the street.
There were a number of former top-shelf cyclists involved with the Exergy Tour organization. Laura Charameda, road sprinter extraordinaire and '93 World Championship medalist, was again world class in her role as Competition Director. Logistics to the smallest of details were covered and then a layer of professional luxury was applied; Garmins pre-programmed for each stage, fully loaded vehicles with racks and fuel cards, PODs for each team for storage and late night mechanics, Tour Tracker coverage, full time Medical Team, www.uride.tv updates, daily gifts to each rider…the list could go on.
Other notables were involved on the media side with Connie Carpenter-Phinney and Leslee Schenk-Trzcinski providing a colorful commentary at the start/finish venue and internet, while Patty Peoples roamed with her writing tablet and video camera for interviews.
Being an Olympic year, the atmosphere was electrifying. Act one scene one, ThePrologue. Last rider off, the personification of what Exergy is all about, Kristin Armstrong, crashes in the second last turn and the "mighty Canadians shock the world" with a sweep of the top three spots; Tara Whitten, Team Tibco, Gillian Carleton, Canadian National Team and Clara Hughes Team, Specialized/LuLuLemon. These were wonderful spokespersons for the sport of cycling giving thanks to the Exergy Tour organization for their diligent planning, the Boise police for their detective work and the Boise community for their support. For these three women, it was at a very young age that a spark was ignited to enter the world of cycling so encouragement was given to the community to bring their young girls out to watch the races.
Drama was present throughout each of the next four stages with weather playing a chilly, rainy role, and a slim time cut during the mountain stage eliminating 20 riders from the final race. In the end, the POWER of ladies professional cycling was seen both from those who make it happen behind the scenes as the Exergy Tour organization or team support and the riders who create the drama on the road to provide the world with extraordinary memorial days in Idaho.