Organizers detail Pro Challenge route, including mountaintop finish at Monarch
For the first time in the four-year history of the USA Pro Challenge, a mountaintop finish will be included in the 2014 route. Race organizers on Tuesday revealed further details of the race’s six road stages and one time trial, including a scenic dirt ascent of Kebler Pass on the race’s second day and a challenging circuit race in Colorado Springs.
“Every year we strive to create a route that will challenge the riders in new ways, give spectators more opportunities to see some of the toughest athletes in the world and highlight new parts of Colorado,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Challenge. “The mountains are such a big part of the USA Pro Challenge and we always have incredibly enthusiastic fans packing the summits, so we’re adding a new test for the riders this year and a new viewing opportunity for our dedicated fans with the stage 3 mountaintop finish on Monarch Mountain.”
The overall start of the 550-mile USA Pro Challenge will return to the familiar surroundings of Aspen, Colorado, with a circuit race in the mountain town. The 2014 edition will tackle the same circuit race between Aspen and nearby Snowmass that saw Peter Sagan take victory in 2013.
On Tuesday, August 19, stage 2 will start in Aspen and work its way to Mount Crested Butte. After passing through the Roaring Fork Valley, through the sprint towns of Basalt and Carbondale, the race will tackle the 8,700-foot McClure Pass. A short descent will bring the race to Gunnison County Road 12, a 20-mile roller coaster that changes between pavement and dirt, and tops out at 9,900 feet on Kebler Pass. A technical descent into Crested Butte will bring the race back to familiar terrain. As in 2011 and 2012, the race will finish with a sprint through downtown Crested Butte and the steep finishing climb up to Mount Crested Butte.
On August 20, stage 3 will start in Gunnison and head east for 35 miles before tackling the 11,300-foot Monarch Pass. The riders will then descend the eastern slope of the pass and complete two, nine-mile loops through Salida and the surrounding countryside. Then they will ascend 20 miles back toward Monarch Pass to the finish at the 10,800-foot Monarch Mountain ski area.
On August 21, Colorado Springs will play host to a challenging circuit race. After a ceremonial start at The Broadmoor hotel, the race will head into the city for four laps around a 16-mile circuit. With a climb through the Garden of the Gods, Mesa Road, and the infamous Ridge Road, which hits grades of nearly 17 percent, the route will be a challenge.
On August 22, Woodland Park will host the race for the first time, with the start of stage 5. The first 80 miles will head west and then north through some of the most picturesque terrain in Colorado. The action begins in Fairplay with the long grind up the 11,500-foot Hoosier Pass, the highest point in the race. A descent into Breckenridge follows before a repeat of last year’s challenging final miles up Moonstone Road and into downtown Breckenridge.
On August 23, the famous Vail Pass Time Trial will return, starting in the ski village and finishing 10 miles up Vail Pass.
On August 24, the race returns to the site of some of the largest crowds in USA Pro Challenge history with a stage between Boulder, Golden, and Denver. Leaving Boulder on Colorado Highway 93, the riders will face several hilly and windswept miles as they head toward Golden. Through Golden, the riders will tackle the four-mile climb of Lookout Mountain. After a quick pass back through Golden, the race will head to Denver for three-and-a-half laps of an abbreviated version of last year’s circuit.
“I am really happy to see the 2014 edition of the USA Pro Challenge return to my hometown of Boulder,” said BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney, a previous winner of the final-stage time trial in Denver. “The energy at the finish two years ago was unreal, and it is always special to race near home. This is one of my favorite races of the year and I hope to be able to participate since I missed it last year.”
The USA Pro Challenge runs August 18-24.
2014 USA Pro Challenge
Stage 1: Monday, Aug. 18 — Aspen Circuit Race
Stage 2: Tuesday, Aug. 19 — Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte
Stage 3: Wednesday, Aug. 20 — Gunnison to Monarch Mountain (mountaintop finish)
Stage 4: Thursday, Aug. 21 — Colorado Springs Circuit Race
Stage 5: Friday, Aug. 22 — Woodland Park to Breckenridge
Stage 6: Saturday, Aug. 23 — Vail Individual Time Trial
Stage 7: Sunday, Aug. 24 — Boulder to Denver