Column: USA Pro Challenge leaves a cycling conundrum
The Aspen Times
The USA Pro Challenge ran out of spare tires, chain rings and gold rings after its fifth lap around Colorado.
The wavering fate of the professional bicycle stage race was decided officially last week when race organizers announced there will be no race in the summer of 2016.
Hope for 2017, they say.
But sponsors and host-city contributions and associated fundraisers aren’t enough. Race partners, major players or a major player, apparently are needed for the multimillion dollar bicycle race.
If it returns in 2017, the race will be the USAPro 2.0, a new version of old ideas.
USAPro 1.0 is history now, part of Colorado’s dodgy and colorful cycling history along with the Red Zinger Classic, the Coors International Classic, Morgul-Bismark, American Flyers, Ride the Rockies, Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Triple Bypass, Bike Tour of the Rockies and even Aspen’s Alexi Grewal winning the Olympic gold medal in the road race.
For its five-year run, starting in 2011, the USA Pro Challenge left a swatch of memorable moments from cycling’s famous and infamous for all to remember.
Aspen, in particular, played an historic role in the race, all five years.
Twice the race started in Aspen and Snowmass Village with the prerace staging and two circuit road races.
The first year, the USA Pro Challenge started in Colorado Springs.
Durango hosted the 2012 start with Aspen next in 2013 and 2014.
Steamboat Springs was the start host last summer with a circuit race.
Cycling veteran George Hincapie, a longtime lieutenant to Lance Armstrong during his dominating years, won the first USA Pro Challenge stage race to finish in Aspen.
Another veteran, Levi Leipheimer, won the overall title in that first USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.
He and Hincapie rode in the advanced doping era of professional cycling as did Christian Vande Velde, who was the overall winner in the second year of the race for the Colorado-based Garmin team.
Tom Danielson won the second USA Pro race that finished in Aspen after his solo, daring break on a double-pass day when the cyclists rode Cottonwood Pass and then Independence Pass.
Danielson, the cover boy for the promotional materials for the first Pro Challenge, was bounced from cycling two years later right before he was to defend his title in the Tour of Utah. Second doping violation.
In 2013, the USA Pro Challenge turned a generational corner in ridership.
The new guns stepped in and took over in dominating fashion.
Peter Sagan of Slovakia foreshadowed his international success when he won four stages of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge, including the opening Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race.
Aspen cyclist Tejay van Garderen rode to the first of his two consecutive overall titles for BMC in 2013.
Another young American, Kiel Riejnen of Boulder, won the 2014 Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race in a Main Street sprint.
He cashed in again when he won the 2015 stage that finished in downtown Aspen.
Australian Rohan Dennis, also of powerhouse BMC, won the 2015 overall title in the USA Pro Challenge.
Twice last year, the race went over Independence Pass — used more than any other route except the downtown Denver circuit during the short history of the USA Pro Challenge.
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For Basalt, one of the preseason frontrunners in the Western Slope League, Friday’s loss puts its playoff hopes in jeopardy, while Aspen’s loss to the Bulldogs all but eliminates it from postseason contention.