As cool as it is to cover a big sporting event as a journalist, sometimes it's just as interesting to be a fan. That's what I kept thinking during the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a seven-day stage race through Colorado that attracted the entire Tour de France podium. Montana boy Levi Leipheimer won the Challenge the last week of August, cementing his standing with a solid ride into Breckenridge. But I think the enduring image for so many thousands who cheered on the side of a road was of the pulsing energy. You could feel it build all day, then peak as the racers rode by like 130-pound freight trains. It made me want to see the Tour de France in person, as a fan. Here are some images from the so-called queen stage on 12,095-foot Independence Pass, where the party was as rowdy as the race. The cyclists were 115 miles into a 130-mile day, about to begin a hairball descent through pouring rain into Aspen.
American phenomenon Tejay van Garderen attacking 1km from the summit.