The human-created detritus is gone, but the cycling spirit remains. Although TV coverage of the event was less than spectacular (and the guys at Outside magazine would concur), the buzz behind the week-long cycling race through the mountains of Colorado was huge, as evidenced by the huge turnouts along the mountain stages and the more cow bell along the six circuits in downtown Denver in the final stage. The inaugural year of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge was a hit; just ask winner Levi Leipheimer or anyone who lives in Colorado.

Although a pro stage race modeled after what Europe has been doing for decades in races like the Tour d’Italia, this race was decidedly American–

Yellow in Quiznos

corporate sponsorship everywhere you pedaled, from the naming rights on the leader jerseys (I’ll never eat another sandwich without thinking of the Quiznos yellow jersey) to the schwag at the post-race event. The maillot jeune, the coveted symbol of race-leading, is now wrapped between two freshly baked pieces of bread and covered in chipotle mayonnaise. I have to wonder if these kind of deep pockets are necessary to put on a world-class pro stage cycling race? Maybe because cycling has been relegated on the same level as soccer and hockey that a deep injection of money and advertising was necessary to kickstart a world-class event such as this. I dunno. I just can’t imagine a Cadbury Manchester-United or a Bass Southampton.

But the American-ness, the brashness of the whole event, scaling and de-scaling 12,000-foot high mountain passes through rural Colorado, some of it on dirt, some of it on wet roads, some of it around tight corners–that made for some kind of new excitement. And the Americans in the yellow jersey all week–how often does that happen? Did the Eurodudes and the Aussies and the Colombians let the Yanks win, just for the drama and the international exposure?

And how about that attack on the yellow jersey in the final stage? I’m glad we’re finally breaking that rule. It’s time we revisited the tired old rules of calling it before the fat lady even steps out onto the stage. Enough of these symbolic stages, which don’t even make for good television.

This schwag, brought to you by Smashburger, who incidentally sponsored the spring jersey, came with instructions on how to bop others around you with it. Seriously.

Just grab and bop