Local teams line up for Aspen Sprint Challenge
The Aspen Times
The sprinters are getting ready for the USA Pro Challenge.
The fundraising sprinters are getting ready for the Aspen Sprint Challenge.
And there’s a lot of pride at stake among both groups.
“We’re really pleased with the response we’ve gotten,” said Aspen’s John Bucksbaum, who helped establish the first Aspen Sprint Challenge in connection with the USA Pro Challenge bicycle stage race in Aspen.
The benefit event will feature teams of four in a series of elimination sprints down Main Avenue on the finishing section of the USA Pro Challenge course.
It’s pattered after the Ajax Cup winter fundraiser, developed by Bucksbaum, for the Aspen Valley Ski Club.
“Looking back on the first Ajax Cup three years ago, and looking at the progress we’ve made there, that makes me hopeful we’ll be able to do the same thing here.”
The funds from the team sprint challenge will benefit the USA Cycling Development Foundation and the Aspen/Snowmass Local Organizing Committee.
Bucksbaum said they hope to translate the excitement of the Ajax Cup into the cycling scene in front of the crowds gathered to watch Stage 1 of the USA Pro Challenge, the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race on Monday afternoon.
“There will be four-person teams, and we’ll be using the race course that is already set up,” said Nancy Lesley, director of special events and marketing for the City of Aspen. “The fencing, the start/finish, will already be up.”
She said the head-to-head sprint races will take place down Main Avenue with handicap seeding rounds on Sunday evening.
The elimination rounds will be staged Monday, between laps of the USA Pro Challenge’s Aspen/Snowmass Ciruit Race.
“We’ll have our final championship rounds between laps 2 and 3,” Lesley said. The Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race will feature three laps on a 20-mile circuit that includes Highway 82 to Owl Creek Road, Brush Creek Road, Medicine Bow Road, Upper Ranch Road, McLain Flats Road, Cemetery Lane, through Aspen’s West End and the finish on Main.
“We can use the same infrastructure; we’ll have the same crowd … and we can create a competitive platform for (amateur) cyclists,” Lesley said. “Between laps, it gives everyone something else to do.”
Teams offered up the $10,000 benefit entry for the inaugural event.
Teams entered include the Caribou Club, Glo Science, Progressive Insurance, Stephen Leibovitz Team, John Bucksbaum Team, Aspen Art Museum, Team Quadzilla, Dogma Athletica/Vail Valley Orthopedic, Nick Rohatyn Team, Training Peaks, Shane Aspen Real Estate, Aspen Valley Ski Cub and the Pro Challenge Team.
Early roster entries include Aspen’s Abby Mickey, a pro women’s rider who recently completed a stellar career in bike racing at the University of Colorado.
Mickey, earlier this year, won the prestigious Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race. The 50-mile race from Durango to Silverton summits two mountain passes in the San Juans.
The former Aspen ski racer will show her sprinting form on a bicycle when the handicapping rounds of the Aspen Sprint Challenge take off at 6 p.m. Sunday.
“This fundraiser is for the USA Cycling Development Foundation,” said Steve McCauley, the director of development for the USA Cycling foundation. “The foundation provides the funds for athlete development in all our Olympic cycling disciplines.”
He said the development phase is critical in cycling in the United States.
“Almost every young American in the USA Pro Challenge has come through our programs,” McCauley said, adding that placing young cyclists on professional teams has been a development goal of the foundation.
“Our goal with our program, over the last 14 years, has been to place the riders on the pro teams who can take them to the races they need to get to (internationally),” said McCauley, in Aspen to help with preparations for the Aspen Sprint Challenge.
“Ultimately, they will come back to us for the Olympics, World Championships,” McCauley said.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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