Route for inaugural Quiznos bike race includes Aspen

Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times
AP | The Aspen Times

DENVER – The inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge international cycling race next summer will feature 120 riders traversing 600 miles of Colorado terrain over a mix of mountain, sprint and downtown stages.

Lance Armstrong was instrumental in establishing the new race, which will consist of seven stages through 11 cities: Vail, Colorado Springs, Crested Butte, Avon, Gunnison, Breckenridge, Salida, Aspen, Golden, Steamboat Springs and Denver.

The exact route of the race slated for Aug. 22-28, 2011, is still being mapped out, but this much is certain: It will start in Colorado Springs with a prologue time trial and crisscross over the treacherous Rocky Mountains, with steep climbs and fast downhill legs before finishing in downtown Denver.

The race revives the legacy of the Colorado-based Coors International Bicycle Classic, which ended in 1988, and is designed to be the most challenging event in U.S. cycling history. Other races are slated for 2012, when Boulder is expected to make a pitch as a host city, and in 2013.

“This event will have a profound implication for the sport of cycling,” said Steve Johnson, who as chief executive officer of USA Cycling is responsible for growing the sport in America.

Tim Dugan, who races for Boulder-based Team Garmin-Transitions, said he’s stoked to finally have a competition on home soil.

“A lot of the Europeans get to race in their own backyards all the time. Me, I’m from Colorado, I haven’t had that chance here until now,” he said. “I’ve spent my childhood Alpine ski racing. I’ve competed in places like Aspen, Crested Butte, Breckenridge, places that are hosting the race. And I’ve spent my cycling career racing and riding on the Front Range of Colorado. So the Quiznos Pro Challenge really kind of comes full circle for me.”

UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis’ Rory Sutherland, an Australian who now calls Boulder home and has dominated the domestic cycling calendar in recent years, said he was eager to have the world’s best get tested on the same challenging terrain he trains on.

“It’s always been something for Australians, and Americans as well, to make it in cycling. You’ve had to go to the other side of the world,” he said. “I think what you’re seeing in the U.S. these days with races like the Quiznos Pro Challenge, the Tour of California and all the other smaller races which are stepping up is just how big cycling is becoming in the U.S.”

Dugan’s teammate, Tom Danielson, one of the best climbers in the world, said the homefield advantage is as much a truism in cycling as it is in other sports.

“It’s difficult for us to live in Europe and race against Europeans on their home turf,” Danielson said. “They know everything in and out on the stages. … I’m super excited for the race and I’m even more exited to actually show the world exactly what Colorado’s about.”

Danielson said fellow cyclists often ask him in the peletons in Europe about Colorado’s mountains and he tells them there’s so much more to the state than just the slopes.

“I think the Europeans and the world will really enjoy watching this race on television, reading about it and learning about everyone involved,” he said.