2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge Detailed Route

by Brian Mullin on April 6, 2012

2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge Route Features American Professional Cycling’s Highest Elevation
Second-Annual Race Challenges Professional Cyclists with Altitude and Difficult Terrain

DENVER (April 4, 2012) – The route for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
professional cycling stage race, taking place Aug. 20-26 in Colorado,
will take riders on a heart-pounding journey through the breathtaking
Colorado Rockies.  After making history in the inaugural year by
traveling to the highest elevation of any race in North America or
Europe – higher than the most challenging route on the Tour de France –
this year’s race will take the riders to an altitude of 12,000 ft. not
once, but three separate times, and will include a finish on iconic
Flagstaff Mountain on the penultimate day.

“In determining the
route for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, we wanted to showcase as
much of the Rocky Mountains as possible, while creating a challenging
course for the riders that would provide ideal viewing locations for
spectators,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“This year, the route will take the riders through more mountain passes
than any other race of its kind, with five topping out at a minimum of
10,000 ft.”

The race will visit 12 official host cities for the
starts and finishes of each stage, ranging from towns as small as 250
residents, to cities as large as Denver with a population of more than
600,000. The four new cities joining the 2012 race – Durango, Telluride,
Montrose and Boulder – each offer breathtaking scenery, as well as a
unique cycling history, that will add to the overall excitement of the
race.

Also new in 2012 is the placement of the Individual Time
Trial on the final day of racing in Denver, keeping fans holding their
breath until the very end to see who will be awarded the overall victory
of the seven days of fiercely competitive racing.

“Each day of
this route is a challenge; there will be nowhere to hide for these
riders,” added Hunter.  “Staging the Individual Time Trial on the last
day will punctuate the drama, as we expect any time lead could be taken
away with the challenge and intensity of a circuit sprint. With this
course, we should witness intense competition right down to the last
minute.”


A highly anticipated event on the race calendar, the 2012
USA Pro Cycling Challenge will test the riders’ strength and endurance
over a more than 680-mile course. Highlights of the route include:

Stage 1: Durango to Telluride – Monday, Aug. 20
This
year’s Grand Depart will begin with a unique start of two neutral laps
through downtown, followed by a larger 6.5-mile racing loop that
encompasses most of town and then heads back through downtown for the
first Sprint Line of 2012. A few bumpy feet of road as the racers cross
the tracks of Durango’s famous Narrow Gauge Railroad will send the
riders on their way out of town toward Telluride. On the ride out of
LaPlata County the racers will have to tackle the Hesperus Climb on US
160. After a challenging, rolling ride across the high windswept plains
and the second Sprint Line in the town of Dolores, the riders start a
gradual canyon climb that lasts more than 30 miles. Topping out over
Lizard Head Pass at 10,222 ft., any time gaps gained going up must be
maintained on the 15-mile descent into Telluride. A tight and technical
finish awaits the riders in the small, scenic town and they must
navigate a small round-about and four turns in the last mile before
sprinting to the finish line.

Stage 2:  Montrose to Crested Butte – Tuesday, Aug. 21
At
99 miles, Stage 2 is a mix of old and new. Beginning with a new course
for the first 65 miles, the race then visits familiar territory as it
passes through Gunnison and retraces the 2011 route up to the grueling
finish in Mt. Crested Butte. Beginning at Montrose Pavilion, the stage
will begin with a quick neutral lap before the riders head east out of
town. As Montrose fades into the distance, the short but challenging
climbs over Cerro Summit and Blue Mesa Summit await and make for early
launch pads for the breakaway specialists.

As the road levels,
giving way to the picturesque twists and turns along the shores of Blue
Mesa Reservoir, the riders approach the first Sprint Line of the day in
Gunnison, 65 miles away from the start in Montrose. Gunnison will host
the race two days in a row, first as a pass-through in Stage 2 and then
as the start city for Stage 3. Moving north out of Gunnison breakaway
time gaps will shrink, team leaders will move to the front and
domestiques will protect and position their leaders. As the riders head
into downtown Crested Butte, they’ll face the day’s last Sprint Line.
From there it’s a 2-mile climb to the line at Mt. Crested Butte. A
dynamic and exciting uphill finish, this short, but steep hill gave Levi
Leipheimer the leader’s jersey in 2011.

Stage 3:  Gunnison to Aspen – Wednesday, Aug. 22
In
2011, U.S. stage racing saw one of its toughest days with the ride from
Gunnison to Aspen and in 2012 the “Queen Stage” will again feature two
of the highest climbs in professional racing. The stage starts in
downtown Gunnison with a short neutral section leading out of town;
however, as soon as the racing begins, so do the challenges. Just after
the first right turn the riders face the first Sprint Line of the day in
the small community of Almont. This will most likely be the last time
the true sprinters will play a part in this stage, as the race quickly
turns uphill and heads toward the first King of the Mountain (KOM) of
the day near Taylor Park Reservoir.

A short, flat section on the
north side of the reservoir will be the last pavement the field will see
for almost 14 miles, as the dirt climb that follows will take the race
to 12,126 ft. and the highest point of the week at Cottonwood Pass. A
beautiful, twisting descent will take the peloton down into the town of
Buena Vista and the second sprint line of the day before heading north
on US 24 to Twin Lakes. The left turn toward Twin Lakes will show the
field what is to come as they see the massive ridge in front of them.
Although the climb up Independence Pass is paved and not quite as high
as Cottonwood, it is sure to produce fireworks again this year. Lined
with fans in 2011, the climb to 12,095 ft. caused several gaps in the
field that led to an exciting finish in Aspen, which will no doubt be
duplicated in 2012.

Stage 4:  Aspen to Beaver Creek – Thursday, Aug. 23
Elevation
is the main story for Stage 4 because with much of the course above
9,000 ft., it will be anything but easy. Those who conquered
Independence Pass on Stage 3 will see it again very early in Stage 4,
with the climb starting almost immediately after several neutral start
laps in downtown Aspen. Unlike the previous day, the climb may not
decide the winner, but will be an ideal launching point for a breakaway
or possibly an overall contender to lose time.

Anyone who is brave
enough to attack over Independence Pass will be faced with more than 75
miles of racing at altitude. Along the way they will compete for a
sprint in the historic town of Leadville, the highest incorporated city
in the United States at 10,152 ft. Next on the agenda will be the climb
over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass (10,424 ft.) before
descending into Minturn and tackling the rolling run toward the final
climb to Beaver Creek. Passing through the 2011 start city of Avon, the
peloton will be faced by a stiff 2.5-mile climb that rises almost 1,000
ft. to the ski resort of Beaver Creek. Although not the fiercest climb
on the route, the finale is sure to produce exciting racing, especially
among those fighting for the overall lead.

Stage 5:  Breckenridge to Colorado Springs – Friday, Aug. 24
Stage
5 will see two returning host cities, but in new roles. A rude
awakening is the only way to describe the start of Stage 5 in
Breckenridge. After a short, flat section through downtown, the riders
will have to face the daunting 10-mile climb up Hoosier Pass, which tops
out at 11,500 ft. The summit is followed by a fast descent into
Fairplay and with that, the high mountains are left behind and a day for
the sprinters and breakaway specialists awaits. A fast rush across
Colorado’s high plains ends with a Sprint Line in Woodland Park where
the riders may hit their fastest speeds of the week, and from there they
continue downhill to Colorado Springs through the shadow of Pikes Peak.
Once in Colorado Springs, the route will take a technical uphill run
through the Garden of the Gods, home of the 2011 Prologue. From there
the route takes a quick downhill run to downtown for the 2012 race’s
only finishing circuits. With the peloton passing through the finish
line three times as they blast around downtown Colorado Springs,
spectators will be treated to a thrilling elbow-to-elbow competition
that can reach up to 35 mph.

Stage 6:  Golden to Boulder – Saturday, Aug. 25
Stage
6 will depart from Golden, a second-year host city and site of one of
the largest crowds in the 2011 race, but not before several circuit laps
around downtown provide fans with the chance to cheer on their favorite
riders. The peloton will then head north on CO 93 en route to Boulder, a
city very well known for its bicycle culture. Upon arrival in downtown
Boulder, the sprinters will have an opportunity to earn valuable points
with a sprint line adjacent to the Pearl Street Mall and the USA Pro
Challenge expo area.

After the sprint points have been awarded,
the route will head up Boulder Canyon along CO 119 towards Nederland and
the day’s first KOM competition. Joining the cycling fans in this small
mountain town will be the 14th Annual Nedfest, a music, arts and
microbrew festival. Riders will continue climbing as they are faced with
ascents exceeding 9,300 ft. on the incredible Peak to Peak Highway
before a long and fast descent into the town of Lyons, where they will
encounter another sprint line and the annual Rocky Mountain Folk
Festival.

Classic local climbs up Lefthand Canyon and Lee Hill Rd.
present the next set of challenges for the riders before they return
for one final pass through downtown Boulder. In a dramatic race to the
finish, the riders will head up “The Hill” to Flagstaff Mountain where a
3.5-mile vertical, dramatic race to the finish line at Sunrise
Amphitheater will commence.

Stage 7:  Denver Individual Time Trial – Sunday, Aug. 26
After
a tough week of racing over mountains at high altitude, the Stage 7
Individual Time Trial will be a completely different kind of race – and
one that could dramatically change the results. By taking the team
factor out of the race, this flat and fast course in downtown Denver
will have those looking to take the overall win facing a tough
individual test, making this one of the most exciting finishes possible.

Using
many of the same roads as the final Denver finish circuits of 2011, the
course will provide a challenge for the riders and fantastic viewing
opportunities for race fans. Starting at one-minute intervals, with the
final riders going off at two minutes, near the State Capitol Building
in Denver’s Civic Center Park, the riders will first face a familiar
out-and-back section along Speer Blvd. and Colfax Ave., with a slight
detour through the entertainment district along Larimer Street.

Returning toward the start area on Colfax, the riders will turn north to 17th
Ave. and a long section of straight road, eventually delivering them to
City Park. A short, but technical run through the park will return the
riders to 17th Ave., allowing spectators to see their
favorite riders pass by again. Two quick turns will put the riders back
on Broadway headed south to the finish line adjacent to Civic Center
Park.

About the USA Pro Cycling Challenge
For
seven consecutive days, the world’s top athletes race through the
majestic Rockies, reaching higher altitudes than they’ve ever had to
endure – more than two miles in elevation. One of the largest cycling
events in United States history, the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge will
feature the best of the best in professional cycling, competing on a
challenging course through some of America’s most beautiful scenery.

Referred
to as “America’s Race,” the second annual USA Pro Cycling Challenge
will take place August 20-26, 2012, a week proclaimed by Governor John
Hickenlooper as “Colorado Cycling Holiday,” and travel through 12 host
cities from Durango to Denver. More than 1 million spectators are
expected to once again line the route to see if Levi Leipheimer will
defend his title as reigning champion, while millions more around the
world watch the race live on television and online through the Tour
Tracker.

More information can be found online at www.USAProCyclingChallenge.com and on Twitter at @USAProChallenge.

Source – Nicole  Okoneski

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