Let the countdown begin! Only fourteen days until the much anticipated 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge begins in beautiful Durango, Colorado. Last year, the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge proved to be the most extreme professional cycling race ever held in the United States and this year the course is set to be tougher still. Riders will face 683 miles of varying terrain, including nine mountain passes with elevations as high as 12,000 feet. The race will be extremely demanding but the spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery will provide inspiration for riders and a picturesque backdrop for spectators.
Stage 1 : August 20 : 126.5 Miles
Starting in Durango, Stage 1 will take riders over the famous Narrow Gauge Railroad and off toward the finishing line in Telluride. In between, riders will face the Hesperus Climb on US 160, a long stretch of high plains leading to the town of Delores, a 30-mile canyon climb which tops out at 10,222 feet on Lizard Head Pass, and a final 15-mile descent into the small town of Telluride.
Stage 2 : August 21 : 99.5 Miles
The second stage will begin in the small town of Montrose and then head east to finish in Crested Butte. It will feature two short but difficult climbs over Cerro Summit and Blue Mesa Summit, a windy route along the shores of Blue Mesa Reservoir, a quick pass through the city of Gunnison, and a final 2-mile climb up Mt. Crested Butte to the stage finish line.
Stage 3 : August 22 : 130.5 Miles
Beginning in Gunnison and finishing in beautiful Aspen, Stage 3 includes the two highest climbs in the Pro Challenge. Racers leave the pavement behind for dirt as they climb up Cottonwood Pass to 12,126 feet, then descend into the scenic town of Buena Vista before facing the final climb up Independence Pass to 12,095 feet and a steep descent into downtown Aspen.
Stage 4 : August 23 : 97.2 Miles
The fourth stage begins in Aspen and quickly takes the riders up Independence Pass for the second time and before leading into Leadville, America’s highest town, which sits at 10,152 feet. Next the riders face a challenging climb over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass, a steep descent into Minturn and through Avon, and then a final 2.5-mile, 1,000-foot climb to the Beaver Creek Ski Resort.
Stage 5 : August 24 : 117.9 Miles
Beginning in the resort town of Breckenridge, Stage 5 starts with a grueling climb up Hoosier Pass which peaks at 11,500 feet and then drops quickly into Fairplay. The race continues across the Colorado high plains, through Woodland Park and along the base of Pike’s Peak to Colorado Springs, before it climbs the technical route through Garden of the Gods and back into downtown.
Stage 6 : August 25 : 103.3 Miles
Beginning in Golden, where record crowds gathered last year, Stage 6 follows CO 93 to Boulder before climbing up Boulder Canyon to the small town of Nederland, where riders will continue the climb up the Peak to Peak Highway to 9,300 feet. Then they’ll descend to Lyons, follow a hilly stretch back to Boulder, climb up Lefthand Canyon and Lee Hill Road before approaching the final stretch up Flagstaff Mountain.
Stage 7 : August 26 : 9.5 Miles
The final race stage changes up the game significantly by removing the team factor, focusing on individual times and challenging the racers on the flat and fast streets of Denver, Colorado’s capitol. The last stage will offer some of the closest and best viewing spots for fans as well as opportunities for riders to change the race results and show their speed and agility.
The excitement is building with only fourteen days until the USA Pro Cycling Challenge gets under way. Don’t miss your chance to get out, enjoy the Colorado sunshine and support your favorite riders as they battle it out over mountain passes, across windblown high plains, and through quaint Colorado towns and a couple of bustling cities.