Beginning in 2011 and again in 2013, the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team has held a two- week training camp at our home on Wieler Rd just above Kerr Gulch. They do this to be able to train at altitude prior to the USA Pro Challenge, The Tour of Utah, and other races with big mountain stages. It pays off as we witnessed last year when Serghei Tvetcov, the National TT Champion of Moldova, finished 12th in the Vail TT passing Andy Schleck along the route. Team members also include current and four-time US National Road Champion, Freddie Rodriguez, US Collegiate Champion Ian Burnett from Fort Lewis College, current and two time Mexican National Champion Luis Davilla, former Australian National Champion and Giro Italian stage winner, Matthew Lloyd and several other accomplished pros. Some of our best riders started their careers with Jelly Belly including Christian Vande Velde, Will Routley, Jonas Carney, national cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers and many more.
Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis was formed in 1999 and Jelly Belly is the longest domestic sponsor of a pro team. The team is managed by former six-time US National Champion and Olympian Danny Van Haute. Danny was an original member of the famous 7-Eleven amateur team formed in 1981 that included Coloradans Davis Phinney and Ron Kiefel in 1982. As an elite men’s team registered in the US as a UCI Continental team they maintain an aggressive race schedule that includes stage races in Canada, China and Japan. They are consistently popular with the fans and the Jelly Belly tent is usually packed with well wishers and of course lots of Jelly Belly beans including their popular Sport Beans. Last year team members took stage wins at the Cascade Classic, Nature Valley Grand Prix and a podium at the Tour of Alberta.
So what’s it like to host these pros along with their mechanics and managers? Quite simply, it’s terrific. Ever wonder what a trailer filled with 30 new race bikes looks like parked in your driveway? Well, it’s pretty cool and it’s easy to develop bike envy which might explain why my garage is still filled with bikes after they leave each year. These pros work very hard at their profession, are considerate and a lot of fun to be around. They love working with kids as seen last summer when they partnered with Team Evergreen and held a clinic at the Evergreen Recreation Center. They train arduously and monitor their nutrition and conditioning carefully. One morning one of them asked, “what is that big mountain” that’s seen from our front yard and “can I ride there from here?” I responded it’s Mt Evans and yes you can.” He did a century to the top and back that day. I rode with Danny in the team car during another training ride to Loveland Pass and when we caught up with the team at the base of the pass they decided to race to the summit, sprinters vs. climbers. We’d drive ahead to set up for pictures and as I slowly gathered my cameras Danny would urge me to hurry up. When I asked why, he responded “they’ll be here in no time” and they were as they climbed at 15-20mph to the top. Their descent saw speeds exceeding 60mph and was amazing to follow.
I picked up the first three to arrive at DIA one year. When we got home they mentioned they needed to ride and asked if I’d like to join them. “Right,” I thought, but they urged me on and we rode a 20+ loop from our home in an hour, up Kerr Gulch, down to the Lake House where J. Powers decided to off-road a bit on the gravel by the golf course, then down to Kittredge and back up Kerr Gulch. As we approached Wieler Rd with me hanging on their wheels at 45mph on the descents I jokingly said, “Hey guys, wanna do the loop again?” They did, but I headed home for a beer and some Advil!
I also had the unique experience to ride in the team car — the one with all the jelly beans painted on it, during the Pro Challenge from Beaver Creek to Steamboat Springs in 2011. We started with the traditional loops for the fans prior to the start, waved at the crowds and then hit the gas as the pros kicked into gear. It provided insights that can only be appreciated on the road. Listening to the race chatter on the radio, watching the riders when they’d grab fluids from the car, shooting as many pics as possible while moving, and admiring the speed and competence of chief mechanic Ralf Medloff as he’d change a tire, were all part of a fascinating experience.