Cyclists study USA Pro course |

Cyclists study USA Pro course

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Pro cyclists are getting a jump on preparations for the USA Pro Challenge, which will start in Aspen on Monday, Aug. 18.

Riders and team officials with several pro squads have been training in the Aspen/Roaring Fork Valley area after concluding the Tour of California last weekend.

The Cannondale team, including cycling superstar Peter Sagan, has been most visible on training rides and in Aspen restaurants.

Sagan trained in the Aspen area for two weeks prior to the 2013 USA Pro Challenge last August.

The altitude training paid dividends for the Slovakian free spirit, who won four stages in the Colorado pro race last year.

He’s coming off another stage win in the Tour of California two weeks ago.

The Cannondale riders and other pros have been retracing the circuit course that will be used again this year in the opening stage — the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race.

The three-lap race will take the riders through Aspen, out to Snowmass Village via Owl Creek Road, then down Brush Creek before cycling up through the Medicine Bow neighborhood before crossing Highway 82 and the return run into Aspen via McLain Flats Road.

The course will go through the West End and back through downtown Aspen.

Each lap will cover about 22 miles.

Sagan won the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race last year.

Stage 2 this year will feature new terrain and new roads for the USA Pro Cyclists.

On Tuesday, Aug. 19, the field will leave Aspen and head downvalley via McLain Flats and Lower River Road.

The field will make a tour through Basalt, blast down 82 and cut off at Catherine’s Store for a tour through Carbondale.

Then it’s up the Crystal River Valley on Highway 133, up and over McClure Pass.

They’ll turn left at Kebler Pass and head to Crested Butte, for the finish of stage 2.

That new terrain, including Highway 133 and McClure Pass (climb and descent), has drawn the attention of the riders and team officials who have been previewing the USA Pro Challenge course.

Tejay van Garderen, who lives in Aspen, is the defending champion in the USA Pro Challenge.

His BMC teammate, Mathias Frank of Switzerland, finished second in 2013.

Tom Danielson of Boulder, racing for Colorado-based Garmin-Sharp, was third overall last year. Danielson is a former winner of the USA Pro Challenge stage that ended in Aspen in 2012.

He used a solo breakaway on Independence Pass for that stage win.

Stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge this year will start in Gunnison and will feature an uphill finish on Monarch Pass.