You don’t always have to be the one riding the bike…
Sometimes you can volunteer to work as a course marshal for the Colorado Classic pro cycling race! The men’s and women’s teams rolled through Vail during a two day event featuring a Stage 1 circuit race through the village on day one and a Stage 2 time trial up Vail Pass on day two. The race then moved on to Denver for a Stage 3 out and back from LoDo to Lookout Mountain, Red Rocks Park, Evergreen and back and finished things up with a Stage 4 downtown city circuit loop around RiNo and City Park. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned the men’s race which was designated as a 2.HC race, the highest category outside of World Tour races. Both the men’s and women’s races were part of USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour, which showcases the premier domestic road events in the United States.
For once I was the one standing on the sidelines pointing the way and keeping bystanders behind the barricades. But it was a little more involved than that. My volunteer job actually began the night before the event when the volunteers were treated to a pasta dinner and given the fine points of crowd control by CELL, a Denver Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab. We were reminded to keep an eye out, be helpful, and use common sense but let the police handle the big stuff, our main role was to be Public Relations Ambassadors.
Top Questions Asked of Volunteers: (if you knew the answers, you were golden;)
- What time will the riders be here?
- Where are the bathrooms?
- How can I get into the hospitality tent?
- Where can I get an autograph?
- Can I cross the street?
- Where is a good place to see the race?
- Who’s in the lead?
- How fast are they going?
- Where did they start?
- What’s going on… why are the roads closed?
- Who are you and why can’t I get out of my driveway?
- In case of emergency, “See something, Say something”
The toughest question I was asked was, “Where’s cookie corner?” That was the one piece of information that hadn’t been covered, wasn’t on the map, and wasn’t on the Tour Tracker app. I found out later it was the punchy climb from the golf course where they were giving away… cookies!
On race day there were more than just cyclists racing laps around Vail Village. Before the lead riders and the peloton appeared, a convoy of cars and motorcycles comprising media, guests, marshals, police, neutral support, and communications was driving at breakneck speeds to keep ahead of the riders. Behind the peloton followed another army of vehicles including communications, race director, neutral support, 16 team cars loaded with bicycles and parts, more communications, support, police, ambulances, broom, and end of convoy. My job was to blow a whistle when the first car came into sight in the “S” turn where I was stationed giving notice that the race was approaching. As the race ground on and the cyclists broke into smaller groups, much more whistling was needed to give notice of each approaching group. After 4 laps of the women’s race and 8 laps of the men’s race, my ears were ringing from blowing that whistle every few minutes for six hours.
They say it takes a village but to put on a bike race it takes an army! 700 volunteers and 300 staff came together to host this event. If you’ve never peeked behind the curtain of a pro race, give it a try sometime!