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2011 Quiznos Pro Challenge to visit Steamboat, Crested Butte, but not Boulder or Durango

UPDATED: More details for two of the most difficult stages of the 2011 Quiznos Pro Challenge

DENVER (VN) _ Organizers of the 2011 Quiznos Pro Challenge stage race on Thursday announced the host communities for the race, to be held next August in Colorado.

The 2011 Quiznos Pro Challenge Stages

August 22 – Prologue, Prologue time trial, Colorado Springs
August 23 – Stage 1, Salida to Crested Butte, mountain-top finish
August 24 – Stage 2, Gunnison to Aspen, mountain stage
August 25 – Stage 3, Vail, time trial, former Coors Classic stage
August 26 – Stage 4, Avon to Steamboat Springs
August 27 – Stage 5, Steamboat Springs to Breckenridge
August 28 – Stage 6, Golden to Denver

Twenty-three communities submitted bids to host the event. Those chosen to host race starts or finishes are: Breckenridge, Salida, Steamboat Springs, Aspen, Colorado Springs, Vail, Golden, Denver, Gunnison, Crested Butte and Avon. The race will cover roughly 600 miles and will primarily take place in the state’s central and northern mountains.

While specific route details were not released, the start and finish spots indicate a very mountainous route, with few sprinter stages. VeloNews was able to confirm two stage routes following the official announcement.

According to sources close to the race organization who requested to remain anonymous, the routes for stages 2 and 3 are settled.

The second stage, from Salida to Crested Butte, will travel west on Highway 50 over Monarch Pass before turning north in Gunnison for a run to the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. The roughly 96-mile route will finish with a 2.5-mile climb to the ski area and should result in a small group sprint.

The next day, riders will face what should be the race’s queen stage when they trek from Gunnison to Aspen via Cottonwood and Independence Passes. Both passes are over 12,000-feet elevation and the stage will include more than 8,300 feet of climbing, all of it above 8,000 feet elevation. Cottonwood Pass includes a long section of compact gravel road between Taylor Park Reservoir and the summit; the descent from Independence to Aspen is fast, narrow and technical.

Medalist Sports managing partner Jim Birrell has been traveling the state for months, identifying potential courses and training for the Leadville Trail 100. Though the race will take place almost entirely in the mountains, he did look for a number of sprint finishes to balance the racing.

“I think you’d be surprised,” said Birrell. “I have no doubt that the overall composition of the seven days is one that is going to challenge all athletes and I would hope to see a lot of lead changes. With time bonuses and what have you, I think it’s going to be a competitive race all the way to the finish in Denver.”

Garmin-Transitions climber Tom Danielson agreed. “Some of these stages could be a sprint,” he said. “Guys like Cavendish, Farrar, Petacchi, they can get over some hard climbs. In fact, they can climb better than a lot of the guys in the pro peloton over here anyway. Even though some of these stages don’t look like sprints on paper, these guys will get over the climbs and there will be sprints.”

Danielson expected the race to repalce the Vuelta a Espana on many riders’ schedules in 2011. “A lot of guys will be motivated and it falls perfectly on the calendar,” he said.

“I would say that probably all the top stage racers will go to this race, minus a few guys that will go to the Vuelta.”

The race will not venture to the state’s Four Corners region, where Durango had hoped to host a start. Boulder also missed the cut for hosting a start or finish, but Birrell hinted that the final stage, from Golden to Denver, could pass through or near Boulder.

“That stage, because of how close Golden is to Denver, gives us a lot of latitude and a lot of creativity to build a very dynamic stage,” said Birrell, who will be staking out the Golden-Denver route this weekend. “It’ll be a very iconic stage into Denver, representing a lot of the Front Range.”

Choosing the host communities was difficult said Ellen Kramer, Quiznos chief communications officer.

“We had so much interest from incredible cities across Colorado that we could hold an event of twice the duration,” Kramer said. “We worked diligently throughout the selection process to incorporate cities that provide terrain that is unique to Colorado and delivers one of the most exciting cycling events in the world. The selected cities will make excellent partners and provide a demanding course for the world’s top cyclists.”

The cities were announced at the state capitol, with representatives from the 11 communities, along with outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter, a cyclist and race supporter. Coors Classic boss Michael Aisner was on hand, as were Chris Aronhalt and Jim Birrell, managing partners of QPC promoter Medalist Sports.

Icon Lasik, a Denver-based eye surgery center, is joining the sandwich chain as a major sponsor, it was announced.


BHolcombeEditor’s Note: Brian Holcombe is a reporter with VeloNews. He covers all things racing in the U.S. and has been accused of attacking too much on the VN lunch ride.