Froome likely to ride in USA Pro Challenge
The Aspen Times
Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome will pedal into Aspen in two weeks for the USA Pro Challenge.
Froome, the native of Kenya who rides for Great Britain and the powerhouse Sky team, is a likely entry into the 2013 stage race in Colorado, according to Shawn Hunter, CEO founder and co-chairman of the USA Pro Challenge.
“Chris Froome … likely will ride in the USA Pro Challenge,” Hunter said in an interview with The Aspen Times. “I think Froome is coming in here and really wanting to make a statement.”
While the official rosters for the 16 teams in the 2013 USA Pro Challenge will not be filed until the days before the start on Aug. 19 (the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race), Hunter said the Sky Procycling team, from Great Britain, will try to make the most of its inaugural appearance in the USA Pro Challenge.
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That means Froome and other Sky heavyweights, like Richie Porte, will tackle the Colorado Rockies in the third annual bicycle-racing challenge.
After many top European and international cyclists were wary of the USA Pro Challenge because of the high altitude of the Colorado Rockies, Hunter said Froome and more Europeans riders this year will race in the seven-stage Colorado race that starts in Aspen and ends in Denver.
“This really is a world-class field,” Hunters said, adding that when the cycling teams had success with attacking strategies last year, the prevailing attitudes about the Colorado race changed.
“When Jens Voigt … had a solo runaway to winning in Beaver Creek, teams saw that,” Hunter said. A day earlier Boulder’s Tom Danielson survived a solo break to win the 2012 stage that finished in Aspen after climbs of Cottonwood and Independence passes.
Colombian riders also animated the stages last year that featured climbing sections.
“With Froome and the other … Europeans stars racing here, it’s great validation for the event and for the communities involved in the event, like Aspen,” said Hunter, a longtime sports executive who helped develop the Tour of California as well as the USA Pro Challenge.
Hunter also is a former executive vice president of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche.
A key figure in the player-transfer rules that helped players like David Beckham and Thierry Henry play in Major League Soccer (MLS), Hunter said the growth and exposure of the USA Pro Challenge are big reasons seven of the UCI Pro Teams, the highest level of professional cycling, are entered in the 2013 race.
In addition to Sky, the UCI Pro Teams racing are BMC, Cannondale Pro Cycling, RadioShack Leopard Trek, Team Argos-Shimano, Team Saxo-Tinkoff and Team Garmin-Sharp, the Colorado-based race team that produced last year’s overall USA Pro Challenge winner, Christian Vandevelde.
Garmin-Sharp also collected a pair of sprint victories last year from Tyler Farrar as well as Danielson’s victory in the Silver Queen stage.
RadioShack Leopard Trek won the team title at the 2012 Colorado stage race.
Four UCI Professional Continental Teams will race in the USA Pro Challenge this year. They are Champion Systems (China), UnitedHealthcare (U.S.), Team Novo Nordisk (U.S.) and Colombia (Colombia).
Five UCI Continental Teams also will race. They are Bissell Pro Cycling, Bontrager Cycling, Optum/Kelly Benefit Strategies, Jamis-Hagens Berman/Sutter Home and Jelly Belly/Kenda.
Hunter said that after a week of buildup with many of the pro riders training in the Aspen and Snowmass areas, the 2013 race will feature a unique kickoff with the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race on Monday, Aug. 19.
The cyclists will start in downtown Aspen with nontimed-parade laps before starting the official race, which will take the riders from downtown Aspen to the Owl Creek Road intersection via Highway 82.
The riders will climb Owl Creek to Snowmass before turning down Brush Creek Road where they will make a fast, technical turn onto Medicine Bow.
After crossing Medicine Bow to Upper Ranch Road, the 127 cyclists in the field will rage across Highway 82, head down to the bridge and them climb up the W/J Ranch Hill to McClain Flats.
From there, the riders will head back to Aspen via Cemetery Lane and the technical up-and-down of Power Plant Road.
A fast blast through the West End will led to the start/finish on Main.
Cyclists will make three laps for a total of about 60 miles for the Aug. 19 opening stage.
The racing will begin at 1:05 p.m. Aug. 19.
“Monday’s circuit race is going to one of the most fan-friendly days of the event,” Hunter said. “To see these cyclists four times, in race conditions, will be a real treat.”
The circuit start will be a first for the event.
Last year, a mountain stage from Durango to Telluride via Lizard Head Pass, opened the USA Pro Challenge.
In 2011, an individual time trial in Colorado Springs started the race.
“This circuit race is going to be a challenging race for the pros,” Hunter said, adding that the USA Pro Challenge was seeking a unique start for 2013.
A day later, the pro cyclists will start Stage 2 in Aspen.
They’ll immediately head up Independence Pass to start the 126-mile stage.
They will finish in downtown Breckenridge, but not before climbing Independence Pass, Trout Pass and Hoosier Pass.
Stage 3 this year will go from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs.
Stage 4 will go from Steamboat to Beaver Creek.
Stage 5 will be the uphill Vail Time Trial on Vail Pass.
Stage 6 will be a Northern Colorado stage starting in Loveland with an eventual finish in Fort Collins.
The final Stage 7 will be a circuit race in downtown Denver.
After two years with an American on top of the final podium in Denver, Hunter said that this year he is predicting a foreign winner.
Levi Leipheimer won in 2011.
Vandevelde won in 2012.
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