SLIDE SHOW: Running of the Red at USA Pro Challenge
When more than 100 of the world's top cyclists in the USA Pro Challenge rolled through Gunnison and made three loops around the Western campus on Aug. 20, they were greeted by nearly as many students, faculty and staff in crimson unitards, bearing Western's bold W logo in the "Running of the Red."
Mad Jack the Mountaineer also joined the entourage on Stage 3 of "America's Race" around Colorado, as he did when Stage 2 finished the day before in Crested Butte. Thousands lined the streets of Gunnison, and the red suits, supplied by the Western State Colorado University Foundation, made quite a hit – not just in Gunnison but also around the world. The BBC included a picture (scroll to the bottom of the linked page) by Getty Images photographer Doug Pensinger of Western's Running of the Red in its daily wrap up of the world's most interesting images. The Gunnison Country Times included a picture of the runners on its front page.
Later in the day, a handful of the Crimson-clad students and staff rode a bus up to Monarch Mountain, where they found a wild fair underway in the ski area's parking lot and spectators lining U.S. 50. The cyclists, after their loops of campus and downtown Gunnison had followed U.S. 50 east, along Tomichi Creek and up 11,300-foot Monarch Pass, before descending into Salida, looping that town twice and climbing back up to Monarch. The red runners joined the throng cheering and ringing cow bells as the tired riders pumped up hill on the last few hundred yards of a day that included nearly 8,000 vertical feet of climbing over 96 miles.
The weather was much more hospitable for a celebration than it had been the day before at Crested Butte mountain, when the riders braved a downpour after crossing Kebler Pass on the Stage 2 route that began in Aspen.
Story and photograph by Greg Smith, with Coleman Becker, Western State Colorado University Communications.