Pro Cycling Challenge will feature eight teams from Tour | AspenTimes.com

Pro Cycling Challenge will feature eight teams from Tour

ASPEN – Rabobank is the latest pro cycling team to throw its helmet into the lineup of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which rolls into Aspen next month, the organizers announced Thursday.

The final team roster includes several of the leading pro teams currently slugging it out in the Tour de France: Leopard-Trek, Garmin-Cervelo, BMC Racing Team, HTC-Highroad, Liquigas-Cannondale, Team RadioShack, Saxo Bank-SunGard and now Rabobank. There are also four Pro Continental teams and five Continental teams, rounding out the roster at 17.

As many as 136 pro cyclists from around the globe are expected in the inaugural Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. The roster of riders should be set in early August – after the pro teams regroup after a grueling Tour de France. That race, cycling’s most prestigious event, is going down to the wire with at least four riders contending for the overall victory and several riders with a shot at podium spots.

Mark Joseph, technical director for the Aspen stage of the Pro Cycling Challenge, said virtually all the riders in the Tour de France will be heading to events in August. They won’t take time off regardless of how tough this year’s Tour de France is, he said.

“They have to crank away to the end of the season,” he said.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will take place Aug. 22-28, overlapping with the Tour of Spain. Any racer who isn’t in Spain will be in Colorado, and Joseph is guessing that Colorado will be the bigger attraction. The Tour of Spain is “hot and hilly and tough,” he said. “It’s really hard, day after day.”

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The teams and their riders know that in the U.S. they can expect comfortable accommodations and fewer of the logistical headaches common with European races, Joseph said: “It’s going to be a really fun race.”

The second stage of the new USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Aug. 24, will travel to Aspen. The race between Gunnison and Aspen – over two 12,000-foot mountain passes – has been labeled the “Queen Stage.”

Racers will depart Gunnison and ascend 2,740 feet over 13.7 miles to the summit of Cottonwood Pass and the first line for King of the Mountain points. Joseph said he expects “mayhem” on the downhill portion of Cottonwood Pass because it is a dirt surface. The riders who survive likely will regroup on the flats around Buena Vista, then a classic climb will begin up the east side of Independence Pass, where more King of the Mountain points will be awarded at the summit.

Joseph said Independence Pass likely earns a “beyond categorization” rank on the professional cycling scale. Passes rank from 4-1 in decreasing toughness; but there’s also an “beyond categorization” rank for a select few passes. While Independence Pass lacks the super steep grades of passes in Europe, its elevation cranks up its rating, Joseph said. Independence Pass tops out at 12,095. The Tour de France had its highest stage end ever this year, about 8,000 feet.

The Queen Stage ends with a screaming descent into Aspen and the culmination of 131 miles of effort. The stage will begin at 9:45 a.m., and organizers estimate it will finish between 3 and 4:15 in Aspen, depending on weather conditions and how race strategy unfolds.

Velo News reported this week that the USA Pro Cycling Challenge had to shuffle its lineup because of a rule that prevents different teams with common owners to compete in the same event. That resulted in the rescinding of invitations to the American under-23 development teams of Trek-Livestrong and Chipotle, according to Velo News. Trek-Livestrong is a developmental squad for RadioShack; Chipotle Developmental is connected to Garmin-Cervelo.

Complete information on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is available at http://www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com.

Cycling fans will also be treated to the Aspen Snowmass Women’s Pro Stage Race, a three-day professional competition with a $10,000 prize purse. Stage one will be a time trial from the base of Aspen Highlands to the Maroon Bells. Stage two will include a circuit race through the steep hills of Snowmass Village. Stage three will be a criterium through the streets of Aspen.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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