Sunday, August 17, 2014

USA Pro Challenge 2014

Its race time again!  The 2014 version of the USA Pro Challenge starts tomorrow in Aspen and will finish next Sunday in its traditional spot in front of the capitol building in downtown Denver.  This year we lose the climb over Independence Pass but the Vail Time Trial is still in the race.

Teejay Van Garderen returns to defend his title with BMC but his teammate and 2013 runner-up Mathias Frank will not be joining him.  Garmin-SHARP brings Tom 'Tommy D' Danielson, last year's 3rd placed rider and Jainer Acevedo who placed 4th last year while racing for Jamis-Hagens Berman.  Garmin's Lachlan Morton placed 5th last year but will not be returning this year.

As mentioned Stage 1 starts in Aspen.  It will consist of 3 22 mile laps between Aspen and Snowmass and back before the finish in downtown Aspen.  Each loop has 2300 feet of climbing.

Stage 2 starts in Aspen the next morning and takes the racers over 8700 foot McClure Pass mid-stage.  Then its a decent into Crested Butte before finishing on the climb to Mt. Crested Butte as it did in 2011 and 2012.

Stage 3 takes the race from Gunnison over Monarch Pass and into Salida.  The twist is that the racers will turn around in Salida and go back up to the Monarch Mountain ski area for a second-straight mountaintop finish.

Stage 4 is a fairly flat (for Colorado at least) circuit race through Garden of the Gods after a ceremonial start in downtown Colorado Springs.  Ridge Road does have gradients up to 17% so its not exactly clear sailing for the peloton.

Stage 5 introduces a new start city in Woodland Park.  The race then takes a new route and climbs up to Breckenridge by way of 11,500 foot Hoosier Pass, the high point of the race.  The finish will be in downtown Breck for those who can stay with the lead pack over the climb.  Be sure to check out Broken Compass Brewing if you go!

Stage 6 is the traditional Vail Time Trial that dates back to the Red Zinger Classic in the 1970s (which later became the Coors Classic).  The cyclists will start one-by-one in downtown Vail before climbing up most of the way to Vail Pass.  The past two times they've used the time trial in the race the winner has been decided by a combined total of 4 seconds.

Finally Stage 7 takes the race from Boulder, through Golden and over Lookout Mountain, and into downtown Denver.  This will be the first trip over Lookout Mountain since the inaugural race in 2011.  The final part of the race will be a 3 1/2 lap circuit between Civic Center Park and City Park before the finish in front of the capitol.  I'll probably be watching from somewhere around Civic Center Park.

As usual I'll try to post daily updates here, in among the busy Rapids schedule in the first half of the week.  And go Argyle!

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