Route details unveiled for Pro Challenge
Organizers of the USA Pro Challenge cycling race made it official Tuesday morning that Independence Pass won’t be part of the course this year.
The specific routes were announced at a press conference in Denver. “It will be the best yet for America’s Race,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Challenge.
The host cities and towns had previously been announced for the 550-mile race, Aug. 18-24.
The 2014 event will begin with a circuit race that starts and finishes in Aspen and swings through Snowmass Village. The racers will make three laps on a 22-mile route that is the same as last year’s circuit.
Stage 2 will start in Aspen but head downvalley on Highway 82 rather than climb Independence Pass. The racers will turn onto Highway 133 at Carbondale and grunt up McClure Pass then turn onto the Kebler Pass road to make their way to Crested Butte and, ultimately, Mt. Crested Butte.
Stage 2 won’t feature as tough of a climb as on Independence Pass, but McClure Pass tops out at about 8,700 feet and Kebler Pass tops out at 10,007 feet.
“It’s a lot more dirt than pavement, believe me,” said Dave Wiens, an expert mountain bike racer who represented Crested Butte and Gunnison at the press conference.
Independence Pass has been part of the USA Pro Challenge for each of its three years. In 2012, the racers climbed the east side of the pass on the stage from Gunnison to Aspen, then toughed out a climb over the west side the next day en route to Beaver Creek. The summit of Independence Pass is at 12,095.
The third day of the 2014 race will be one of the more challenging in the event’s history. Racers will start in Gunnison, climb over 11,312-foot Monarch Pass to Salida, then circle back to end Monarch Mountain Ski Area at 10,820 feet in elevation. It will be the first mountaintop finish in the race’s history.
“I’m still looking for the easy stage here,” cyclist Benjamin Day of the United Healthcare team said at the press conference.
The race will end Aug. 24 in Denver.
Read Wednesday’s Aspen Times for more details on the race route.
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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