The cycling community is waiting with anticipation to watch on live TV the women's-only Colorado Classic unfold between August 22-25. Organisers did away with their men's race in favour of strengthening their corresponding women's event. So far, they've lived up to their promise of offering harder stages, more prize money, and live streaming.
You can watch live streaming of all four stage on Cyclingnews. Our coverage of the event will also include race reports, news, results, and galleries.
Katie Hall will return to defend her title. Instead of competing with her trade team Boels Dolmans, who are competing at the Women's WorldTour Ladies Tour of Norway, she will be leading Team USA.
Her teammates, mostly development riders, include Madeline Bemis, Anna Christian, Emma Edwards, Cara O'Neill and Samantha Runnels.
Hall has a strong chance of securing the overall title, given her palmares as one of America's strongest climbers. Last year, she won every stage race she started on home soil: Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of the Gila, Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of California and the Colorado Classic. This year, she helped her teammate, world champion Anna van der Breggen, to the overall victory in California and she finished in a close second place.
The field in Colorado will be much tougher than last year, however, and Hall will face a series of new and potential overall contenders.
Top riders to watch include Tiffany Cromwell and Omer Shapira (Canyon-SRAM). Shapira is the Israeli national champion and last competed in the US this spring at the Tour of California where she was fifth on the stage to Mt. Baldy and eighth overall.
Sara Poidevin, who won the race two years ago, will lead Rally UHC Cycling. The team have several other contenders in Krista Doebel-Hickok and Emma White. Doebel-Hickok is the team's strongest climber and will be able to match Hall in the mountains. She had top-five performances at the Santos Women's Tour Down Under, Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of the Gila, and she was seventh overall at the Tour of California.
Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank will bring Brodie Chapman and Lauren Stephens, who finished first and second at the recent SBT GRVL. Stephens was one of the most promising American riders until a leg injury put a dent in her season last year.
Although she hasn't quite returned to her previous form, she showed potential with a top 10 at the Chrono Gatineau. She could be a dark horse contender for a stage win.
Chapman will be a strong contender in the overall. She was third at the Herald Sun Tour, won the Tour of the Gila and was sixth overall at the Tour of California.
The team also brings sprinter Kendall Ryan who is grateful that organisers have decided to continue with a women's only event. "I think [the Colorado Classic] is a step forward for us. It's amazing that they want to create races just for women. And I think it's really special that it's happening in the US. And Colorado is smack-dab in the middle and it's really special that they're creating that platform for us."
Sho-Air Twenty20 brings a young but powerful team with Olympic medallists Chloe Dygert-Owen and Jennifer Valente. The pair returned from the Pan American Games where Dygert-Owen won the time trial on the road and the Individual Pursuit on the track. Valente won the Omnium.
Cogeas Mettler Look arrive with one of the strongest teams that include a series of veteran stars in Amber Neben, Edwige Pitel and three-time Olympic medallist Olga Zabelinskaya. Although there is no time trial slated for this edition of the Colorado Classic, a discipline they excel at, all three are strong climbers and expert tacticians of the sport. They have enough experience between them to out-smart many of their younger competitors.
The Italian BePink team will field 2009 UCI Road World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist Tatiana Gudzero. She was third at the mountainous Innsbruck World Championships last year and has competed at the Olympic Games on four occasions.
The other teams on the start line that will be vying for success in Colorado are ALP Cycles Racing, Amy D. Foundation, DNA Cycling, Durango-Specialized-IED, Fearless Femme, Hagens Berman-Supermint, LUX-Flexential, Point S Auto-Nokian Tyre and Swapit-Agolico.
The riders will be competing for six special jerseys; Gates Corporation yellow leader's jersey, Colorado Tourism Office blue mountain's jersey, FirstBank orange sprinter's jersey, VF Corporation green best young rider's jersey, VF Corporation black most badass rider's jersey, and the Audi blue most inspirational rider's jersey.
Colorado Classic - two climbing stages, two sprint stages
Stage 1: August 22 - Steamboat Springs, 87.2km
The race starts in Steamboat Springs with an 87.2km race that includes 1,297m of climbing. There are two categorized mountains, 10km of gravel roads and a descent to the finish line. A cash bonus sprint in on offer at the Oak Creek Sprint.
Stage 2: August 23 - Avon, 81km
The women will face the Queen stage that includes two distinctly different loops. The first is a shorter loop of 8km that the peloton will complete seven laps for a total of 56km. They will then head out to race one larger 24km loop that includes one of the most notorious climbs in Colorado. The race is routed over Daybreak Ridge that reaches pitches as steep as 14 per cent followed by a descent through Bachelor Gulch. In total, there are 1,045m of climbing. A cash bonus sprint is on offer on lap 4 of the short circuits.
Stage 3: August 24 - Golden, 102.5km
The GC will be largely established after the previous day's Queen stage, and stage 3 will give the riders some reprieve with a seven-lap circuit race in Golden. The circuit is 14.4km and includes one steep climb on Washington St. The short climb will be used as a QOM sprint on the last circuit. Although it looks like a race for the sprinters, the field will climb a total of 1,414 metres. A cash bonus is on offer on lap 4.
Stage 4: August 24, Denver, 85km
The peloton will complete eight laps of a downtown circuit in Denver to close out the Colorado Classic. It is a day meant for the sprinters with a start and finish line at the Coors Field. They will race a total of 85km where there will be bonus seconds and intermediate sprints on hand. A cash bonus is on offer on lap 4. The winner of the first women's-only Colorado Classic will be crowned in downtown Denver.