Flagstaff finish official for USA Pro Challenge in Boulder

The penultimate stage of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge will finish on Flagstaff Mountain above Boulder, Colorado

BOULDER, Colo. (VN) — The penultimate stage of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge will finish on Flagstaff Mountain above Boulder, Colorado. Race officials confirmed Wednesday morning that stage 6 of the weeklong stage race will conclude on one of the classic climbs of the Colorado Front Range.

“It’s always something we knew we’d do,” said USA Pro Cycling Challenge COO Brian Farris when asked about planning a mountaintop finish for the fledgling world-class race. “[The Flagstaff] route is a priority for a number of reasons. We’ve had great cooperation and it’s time to get it done.”

The announcement comes the morning after Boulder attorney and local organizing committee head Andrew Shoemaker presented details of a proposed route for stage 6 to the Boulder City Council on Tuesday.

Race organizers have worked with the local organizing committee and officials from Boulder County, the City of Boulder and the Colorado Department of Transportation since late 2011 to design the second-year-race’s first mountaintop finish. Technical staff from race operator Medalist Sports were on-site multiple times in January and made a final visit to the Flagstaff Amphitheatre, with Velo staff, late last month.

In his presentation to the Boulder City Council, Shoemaker detailed a route that would visit Boulder multiple times over more than 100 miles. The stage 6 route will carry riders from Golden via a series of short, steep hills on U.S. Highway 93 before a downtown Boulder sprint line and a moderate ascent of Boulder Canyon to Nederland for KOM points.

From the small, eccentric mountain town, the route will follow the Peak-to-Peak Highway north before descending to Lyons along the South Saint Vrain River. A hilly and often windy run-in toward Boulder will deliver riders to Lefthand Canyon, where the route climbs again, 7.25 miles with upper reaches approaching 10 percent, to the top of Lee Hill Drive.

From the summit of Lee Hill Drive, a break-neck descent to downtown Boulder will take riders to the base of Flagstaff Mountain and its six switchbacks to the amphitheater finish. The 3.25-mile finish climb averages 7.5 percent, with a steep wall down low above Gregory Canyon and another .5 mile from the finish in the amphitheater parking lot.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge co-chair Shawn Hunter confirmed the route Wednesday morning.

“What a thrill it will be for fans from all over the world to see these riders compete up a marquee climb on one of the most iconic mountains in Colorado’s Front Range,” said Hunter. “There is a great cycling heritage in Boulder and we know there will be thousands of fans lining the Stage 6 route to witness the best athletes in the world competing for the win.”

The Flagstaff climb featured as a time trial in the Coors Classic and is the local training ground for a large number of American professionals based in Boulder. Among those riders is Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda), who finished ninth in the 2011 Tour de France and has been one of the most vocal supporters of the route.

Brian Farris told Velo in January that hurdles facing the Flagstaff finish included concerns regarding a local arts festival in Nederland and the ability for the amphitheater’s small parking area to accommodate the finish line infrastructure.

“Safety is our first concern,” Farris told Velo. “We have to make sure the athletes can get up and down safely… I think we’re close.”

Farris said that organizers considered a number of finish options, including a sprinters’ scenario in downtown Boulder and the top of the “Super Flag” climb, another two miles beyond the amphitheater, above a 13-percent ramp called “The Wall.”

“The only way Flagstaff makes sense is to finish at the amphitheater,” said Farris. “We looked at the wall [in January] and there is simply no room above the wall.”

With large finish line infrastructure needed for grandstands, hospitality and team staging, organizers opted for the lower finish, but acknowledged the fact that many supporters had called for the Super Flag finish. As is, with the Lee Hill and Flagstaff climbs placed closely together, the finale on the penultimate day of the race will likely see a major shake-up in the overall standings ahead of a downtown time trial in Denver the following day.