The organisers of the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado announced the details of the 2014 race route today, revealing that the first mountaintop stage finish will be on stage 3. The race begins on August 18 in Aspen and ends August 24 in Denver.
The stage route heads east from Gunnison to the Monarch Pass after 56km, giving riders the opportunity to scout the finish before descending the eastern slopes, doing two local laps through Salida before heading back up the nearly 32km of climbing to the Monarch Mountain Ski Area, at almost 3300m in elevation,
"Every year we strive to create a route that will challenge the riders in new ways, give spectators more opportunities to see some of the toughest athletes in the world and highlight new parts of Colorado," said race CEO Shawn Hunter. "The mountains are such a big part of the USA Pro Challenge and we always have incredibly enthusiastic fans packing the summits, so we're adding a new test for the riders this year, and a new viewing opportunity for our dedicated fans, with the Stage 3 mountaintop finish on Monarch Mountain."
The race begins in Aspen with a short but challenging stage consisting of three laps of 35km each, then heads from Aspen to Crested Butte, taking in the Kebler Pass at over 3000m, rather than Bachelor Gulch which featured last year. The route also heads over McClure Pass at 2650m, and includes some dirt sections on Gunnison County Road 12, a technical descent to Crested Butte and a steep finishing climb.
It will serve as a warm-up for the Monarch Mountain stage, which will be the first opportunity for the overall contenders to open up the time gaps.
A circuit race in Colorado Springs, home to USA Cycling and USADA, follows, with four laps of a 25km loop including the climbs through Garden of hte Gods, Mesa Road and Ridge Road, which kicks up to a gradient of 17 per cent.
Stage 5, from new host city Woodland Park, ends in Breckenridge, winding first through picturesque landscapes including the newly-paved road through Pike National Forest, heading over the Hoosier Pass and on to the uphill finish on Moonstone Road. The contenders will want to save some energy for the stage 6 Vail time trial, which heads up the Vail Pass as it did in 2011 and 2013. The grand finale comes in the stage from Boulder to Denver via Golden and the climb of Lookout Mountain, last used in 2011, before ending with three fast circuits in the state capital.
"It looks to be the most challenging route yet," said 2013 USA Pro Challenge champion and Colorado local Tejay van Garderen (BMC). "I have fond memories of many of the stages that are included in the route…most notably Aspen, which is my hometown, Crested Butte and Vail, where I took a stage victory last year. I don't know the Monarch Pass ski resort, but it will be cool to have a tough summit finish. This route suits me well. I'm anxious to add another title to my résumé."
2014 USA Pro Challenge:
Stage 1: Aspen Circuit Race – Monday, August 18
Stage 2: Aspen to Crested Butte – Tuesday, August 19
Stage 3: Gunnison to Monarch Mountain – Wednesday, August 20
Stage 4: Colorado Springs Circuit Race – Thursday, August 21
Stage 5: Woodland Park to Breckenridge – Friday, August 22
Stage 6: Vail Individual Time Trial – Saturday, August 23
Stage 7: Boulder to Denver – Sunday, August 24