By Colin Bane
Chris Carmichael, founder of Carmichael Training Systems (CTS), knows this year’s USA Pro Challenge route about as intimately as anybody: He’s actually riding every mile of it as part of the Pro Challenge Race Experience, completing each stage of the race in advance of the pros along with 25 amateur athletes looking to cross it off their CTS Epic Endurance Bucket List. Carmichael, himself a former member of the Olympic Cycling Team in 1984 and a former USA Cycling coach, is also the chair of thelocal organizing committee for the Colorado Springs stage of the race. We caught up with him for more on his bucket list, the Race Experience, and his recommendations for making the most of the Stage 5 finish in Colorado Springs.
Something Independent: You’re the first person I’ve talked to so far for this series with firsthand experience of what it’s like to ride these routes. So… how is it?
Chris Carmichael: You know, these rides aren’t easy! First of all there’s a lot of climbing, and it’s climbing at extreme altitude – a lot of it above 7,000 feet and going up from there – and we’re riding every stage from start to finish. I live in Colorado and I’m accustomed to some altitude, but once you’re above 10,000 or 11,000 or 12,000 feet it’s tough for everybody. The Race ExperiencesIt’s the ultimate pro experience: we stay in the same hotels as the teams, we eat dinner with them, and we ride the same course in advance and have to work to stay ahead of them. And these aren’t pros: they’re mostly over 40 and have careers and families, but they love to ride. We all now have a really clear understanding of how difficult this race is and how incredibly in shape the pro athletes are. There’s newfound respect for them, for sure!
What are you most looking forward to about the route into Colorado Springs for Stage 5?
It’s my hometown, it’s where we have our corporate headquarters for Carmichael Training Systems, and I’m the chair of the local organizing committtee for the USA Pro Challenge, so it will feel like what it is: coming home. My family and a lot of our CTS family and athletes will be out there, so it will be a really cool thing. Colorado Springs is a great cycling town and they’ve loved and embraces the USA Pro Challenge from the beginning. We held the prologue stage last year the city had just gone all out to support the race this year as one of the finish towns.
Where do you think will be some of the best places to watch? Obviously the Garden of the Gods is a pretty iconic spot.
Garden of the Gods is beautiful and you can have a picnic out there and that’s great, but I think being downtown will be the place to be. We’re the only finish town with circuits and there are three three-mile circuits, so that’s going to be really exciting. Take your pick: Either go to Garden of the Gods and plan to hang out and have a picnic and enjoy the race, with stunning places to watch like Balance Rock and the Trading Post, or go downtown where there will be all kinds of stuff going on and it will be packed with people.
We’ve been doing a daily Race Day the Right Way feature, asking for some local’s perspective on each of the finishing towns and how to make the most of each stage. Do you have any cool local businesses you’d like to shout out and recommend to folks who are in Colorado Springs to catch the end of Stage 5?
I would shoutout to ProCycling, a great pro shop in Colorado Springs. I always like to visit Shuga’s for espressos and sandwiches, and Springs Orleans is one of my favorite restaurants in town, with Cajun food and great environment. Adams Mountain in Manitou Springs is awesome for organic stuff and fresh vegetables if you’re putting a picnic together to go to Garden of the Gods.
What kind of impact does an event of this magnitude have for Colorado Springs?
Oh, it’s huge, and it’s especially important this year since we were so affected by the wildfires earlier this summer because it helps get the word out that we are open for business. The race brings tons of people to Colorado Springs and people watching the race are going to see the best of what we have to offer. The air is great, we’re at a altitude that’s great for training – that’s a big part of the Olympic Training Center is here – our roads are great for cycling, our trails are great. People are going to see that this is a town that values sport and sporting events, both for the economic impact they have and because it reflects the spirit of our community, who we are, and what we value.
*There have been a lot of cool companies in the active sports realm popping up in Colorado Springs in recent years. What do you think is driving that side of entrepreneurship there? *
The Olympic Training Center is one part of it, obviously – I was the coaching director for USA Cycling for a long time before starting CTS – but I think the main thing is that it’s a great environment for doing research and development, it’s a great environment for training, there’s a great business community and resources here, and it’s an easy place to attract athletes and top-notch employees to. It’s just a place that fits on many fronts, for CTS and for many companies looking to innovate in this arena.
Can you fill us in a bit on what CTS has been up to and what’s on the horizon?
We’re really developing and growing our coaching programs, training camps, and performance testing to keep pace with the explosion of interest in endurance sports at all levels. We started the Epic Endurance Bucket List a few years ago and we’re continuing to expand that. The Pro Challenge Race Experience is a good example: it’s on our bucket list. This is a list of events that ere epic in nature and life-inspiring, events that you can’t just get out there and do it, like you could with, say, a century ride. These are events where you really have to change your life in order to get through them and get the bragging rights, events like the Tour of California, Race Across America, Tour of Utah, Euro Holy Week, the Trans-Andes six-day mountain bike race in the Patagonia range of South America, La Routa de Los Conquistadors – the hardest mountain bike race in the world, in Costa Rica… we’re continuing to expand that list and help our athletes reach their goals. We’ve also just started a triathlon school in Arizona and a new training center in California, and we’re continually looking to expand. For more on what we have to offer, check out TrainRight.com.
S|I is pleased to have writer Colin Bane authoring A Local’s Look at each stage of our On the Road with USA Pro Challenge tour. His work has been featured in ESPN.com, Westword, The Washington Post Magazine, Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine, Aviation Business Journal, Washington City Paper, and Bail Skateboard Culture. Colin is a skateboarder, snowboarder, action sports fan, and proud dad.