Aspen wins finish and a start in Pro Cycling Challenge |

Aspen wins finish and a start in Pro Cycling Challenge

Ryan Slabaugh
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
George Hincapie of BMC Racing celebrates winning the Queen Stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge as he crosses the finish line in downtown Aspen on Wednesday afternoon. Tejay Van Garderen finished in second place for the stage and took the overall lead in the race. (Patrick Ghidossi/The Aspen Times)
Patrick Ghidossi |

ASPEN – Last summer, Aspen saw the best cyclists in the world rip down Independence Pass.

Next summer, fans will see how they do climbing up it.

On Thursday, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge made it official: Aspen not only will get Stage 3 in next year’s international race, but Stage 4 also will start here, adding to Aspen’s role in one of America’s largest pro cycling events.

Stage 3 – already famous for its dangerous speed and high-elevation climbs – will again start in Gunnison and end in downtown Aspen. The new Stage 4 route will take racers back up Independence Pass and through Leadville, ending in Beaver Creek.

Between the two events, Independence Pass is expected to be rocking.

Mayor Mick Ireland will represent the city at the official announcement Tuesday in Denver.

“We wanted this and won,” Ireland said Thursday afternoon. “The community did a great job the first time, and it made a great impression.”

Ireland said race organizers liked Aspen’s supporting events – the kids race, community race and zero-waste policies – so much that they are asking the other stages to follow Aspen’s example in 2012.

“We set the bar effectively for other entrants,” Ireland said.

Having Stage 4 start here will positively affect the economy, Ireland added, saying more people will likely stay in town overnight to catch the start of the race the next day. He said the town will consider adding live music or other entertainment for the event to help retain those visitors in the city.

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association was also actively involved in lobbying the race organizers for a larger share of the race. There is good reason: In its inaugural race last year, the Challenge included 135 of the world’s top cyclists, drew 1 million spectators along a 518-mile mountain route and realized $83.5 million in overall economic impact, according to an analysis by race organizer Medalist Sports.

The four new cities joining the 2012 race – Durango, Telluride, Montrose and Boulder – each offer a lot of cycling history and “add to the virtual postcard” for the state, said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

According to the organizers, some of the reason for adding the new cities was based on tradition. The Four Corners area is home to the Iron Horse Classic Bicycle Race; Durango is home to more professional cyclists, national champions and Olympians per capita than any other town in the United States; and Boulder is consistently ranked one of the best cycling cities in the country.

Also new in 2012 is the placement of the individual time trial on the final day of racing in Denver, organizers said.

According to Ireland, Aspen representatives will be working with race organizers to improve specific areas of last year’s course, including the start and finish area.

More details about the start and finish line locations, as well as the specific, detailed route, are expected to be announced in the spring.

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