Lance and Levi show up at Carbondale race
Carbondale, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE, Colorado – Max Sommers couldn’t believe it when his dad, one of the Western Slope Omnium’s chief organizers, showed him the start list for Friday’s Leg Breaker Time Trial, the first race in the three-phase, weekend cycling event.
“My dad handed me the start list for the pros and I saw Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong,” the 12-year-old relayed. “I was like, ‘Shut up!’ He was like, ‘No, they’re actually coming for the time trial.'”
That’s right. Levi Leipheimer and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, two of the cycling world’s biggest names, found their way to tiny Carbondale for the Omnium’s kickoff race.
The Astana Cycling Team members are thick in training mode for the July 4-26 Tour de France, and used the 16-kilometer time trial, which routed riders along County Road 109 between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, to test out some new equipment.
“They were testing out some prototype Trek time trial bikes,” said Mitch Hyra, who’s co-promoting the Omnium alongside Max’s dad, Bill Sommers.
Hyra fielded a call from Armstrong’s publicist on Thursday and gladly input the stars’ names into the start list, albeit inconspicuously. With hopes of heading off a media and fan frenzy, Hyra did his best to keep everything under wraps in advance of the time trial.
“I actually made a conscious decision,” Hyra said. “I told like four people.”
Only a Friday afternoon Twitter entry by Armstrong, who has a house in nearby Aspen, alerted the masses to the cameo showing in Carbondale.
“Had a good ride w/ @levi_leipheimer this AM. Doing a TT tonight in Carbondale. +/- 10 miles,” the entry read.
A healthy crowd lined the shoulders of County Road 109 as Armstrong and Leipheimer rolled up to the start-finish line – seemingly out of nowhere – and quickly took their turns racing the clock.
“I think they were down at the start-finish line for maybe two or three minutes,” Bill Sommers said. “They blew right out.”
And they lingered only briefly after their ride, shaking a few hands and signing a few autographs before heading back toward Carbondale.
Among those who landed an autograph was young Max, who proudly showed off a notebook with big blue signatures scribbled by both Armstrong and Leipheimer.
“It was so fun,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s like the best day of my life.”
Added Hyra: “When someone who wins seven Tour de Frances shows up in Carbondale, it’s kind of like the Rolling Stones showing up and playing in your backyard.”
And Armstrong and Leipheimer might just serve up an encore for today’s Rock The River Road Race, part two of the Western Slope Omnium. The road race starts near Dotsero and routes riders toward Burns.
“It’s 50-50 that they’ll be racing tomorrow,” Hyra said. “Our race is going to be about four hours. That’d be a short training day for them. They might want to go longer.”