Friday, August 19, 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Comes to Summit County

So I think everyone in Summit County is very excited that the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is coming to the area.

By the way the web site is very informative, with topographical and road maps of the daily routes, visuals of the elevation profiles, excellent spectator guides, stage timetables with the time the riders are expected to reach each point on the route, pages on each of the host cities and their celebrations of the event, as well as team and rider information with videos and interviews, as well as the Shack Tour Tracker that will allow you to watch the race live on your computer.

Seven days and some of the most difficult terrain in Colorado will test some of the world's best cyclists. I personally have sat glued to the television and watched almost every stage of the Tour De France for the past ten plus years. Now this is my chance to see the stars of this great race at home in my own state. The added dimension to this Colorado race is of course the altitude. Andy Schleck has been in Steamboat Springs training for the altitude. His brother Frank has stayed home to spend time with his family, but will be here for the race. Both of them race for the Leopard Trek team and placed second and third in the 2011 Tour De France respectively.

Andy Schleck

Frank Schleck

Tom Danielson, of the Garmin-Cevelo team, who placed ninth in the 2011 Tour De France, the highest placed US rider, lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado, so he is a local favorite to do very well in the race.

Tom Danielson
One wonders how the great time trialist and the 2011 winner of the Tour De France, Cadel Evans, of the BMC racing team, will fare in a time trial in Vail that is almost all up hill. The question is also whether Andy Schleck, as a great climber, will race better against him in this discipline than he did in the 2011 Tour De France time trail, where Cadel guaranteed his first place finish in the race.

Cadel Evans
All of the General Catergory podium finishers from the Tour De France will be racing, as well as US legends Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack - 2011 winner of the Tours of California and Utah, George Hincapie, team mate of Cadel Evans, former team mate of Lance Armstrong, who has finished the Tour De France a record 14 straight times, as well as podium Tour De France finisher from Italy, Ivan Basso, of Team Liquigas.

Levi Leipheimer

George Hincapie

Ivan Basso

I would say that the only disappointment about the roster for the race is the lack of the world's top sprinters. But we have all see how these guys struggle when the Tour De France heads into the Pyrenees and the Alps, and I am sure that the idea of crossing two high mountain passes in one day that are over 12,000 feet would be daunting for these riders. Speaking of Stage 2 on Wednesday August 24, racers have to ascend 13.7 miles to the top of the 12,126 foot Cottonwood Pass on a dirt road, and then summit Independence Pass at 12,095 feet with a 6.5% gradient, before descending into Aspen. This has to be the stage to watch. I only hope that I will be able to find a spot to cheer on these incredible athletes on Independence Pass, if I leave early enough from Summit County. The road will be closed at noon and the riders are expected to summit at about 3pm.

For the Vail time trial the next day, it is suggested that you park at the top of Vail Pass and then either ride your bike or walk down the bike path to the finish of the race. The ten mile stage will take the racers from Vail Village up the road that is part of the Vail Pass bike path. I imagine a lot of Summit County fans will be taking this option or riding all the way from Summit County to the finish.

Saturday August 27 is when the race really comes to town with the route taking the racers from Steamboat Springs, up and over the double-summit Rabbit Ears Pass, past Green Mountain reservoir, along the Blue River valley and into Silverthorne, around the shores of Lake Dillon, a King of the Mountain Stage on Swan Mountain road, and into a sprint finish on Breckenridge's own Main Street There is only one King of the Mountain stage after the Swan Mountain ascent, over Look Out Mountain in Golden the next day  Swan Mountain is where we will be tailgating at the Lowry Camp site and then walking or cycling to Sapphire Point to see who is the King of the Mountain for Summit County. Who knows, if the race is close, this could be a climb at the end of a long uphill day that could be significant. Let's hope so, as I know I would love to see a dramatic battle on the hill that so many of our local cyclists "love" to climb. The party in Breckenridge after the race finish, with a concert with Big Head Todd and the Monsters, promises to be a great way to finish what should be a very exciting day.

I know some folks are probably not so thrilled about the road closures and the potential crowds associated with the US Pro Cycling Challenge's arrival in Summit County. I know I have been taking extra time to warn my clients about the day's activities. But I for one am ecstatic that this event is coming to town. Let's show these elite athletes some Summit County hospitality and if you are not acting as a volunteer, get out there and cheer them on. I am in awe of their athletic ability and cannot wait to show them how much I appreciate their endeavors.

Watch this spot for my photos and blogs of the stages that I manage to see next week.