A Summer of Cycling in the Rockies

It’s hard to beat summer in the Rockies. It seems as if the last month has been sunny and 75 every day — pretty perfect for a bike ride.

The Vail Valley is proud to host two stages of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Vail is proud to host stage 3, Thursday, August 25 – the only time trial event of the race which starts in the heart of Vail Village and ends at the top of Vail Pass. On Friday, August 26, riders will depart from downtown Avon on their way to Steamboat Springs. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is expected to be the largest spectator event in Colorado history, and one of the largest sporting events to ever take place in the United States. 128 of the top riders in the world will compete for seven consecutive days, covering a distance of 518 miles through the rugged Rocky Mountains. 

Stage 1 (Aug. 23) consists of a circuit through the town of Salida, followed by a 102 mile trek to Mt. Crested Butte. Stage 1 will certainly give cyclists their first taste of the lung-grabbing, oxygen deprived Rocky Mountain air. Riders will gain 3250 feet in elevation over 13 miles, to the top of Monarch Pass. After the descent, riders will close out the day on an uphill climb from the lower area of Crested Butte, to the finish line on the top of Mt. Crested Butte – the USA Pro Cycling Challenges only mountain top finish.

Stage 2 (Aug. 24) from Gunnison to Aspen will prove to be the most difficult. This section of the race will summit two 12,000 foot peaks! Riders will leave the town of Gunnison and travel through the Gunnison National Forest. They will then ascend 2740 feet over 13.7 miles to the top of Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet above sea level). After a quick descent, riders will battle the second pass of the day. Independence Pass (12,095 ft.), arguably one of the most spectacular passes in Colorado, consists of a 6.5% gradient with numerous switchbacks. After 131 miles, the grueling second stage comes to an end in picturesque downtown Aspen.

Stage 3 (Aug. 25) is the Vail Time Trial. Starting the heart of Vail Village, riders will ride uphill, 10 miles to the top of Vail Pass.

Stage 4 (Aug. 26) from Avon to Steamboat Springs, should prove to be an easier day. Without significant climbs or high speed descents, cyclists have numerous opportunities to break away. The 86 mile trek starts in Avon, passes through Wolcott and ends in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Stage 5 (Aug. 27) consists of a 109 mile race starting in Steamboat and ending in Breckenridge. Stage 5 should prove to be another stage which will provide ample opportunities for aggressive riding and breakaways. Riders will summit Rabbit Ears Pass, before descending through Kremmling, passing Green Mountain Reservoir and finishing in downtown Breckenridge.

Stage 6 (Aug. 28) from Golden to Denver certainly won’t be a cake walk. Riders will leave Golden, climb and descend the treacherous 6.1% gradient Lookout Mountain. After an exhausting 1300 feet of elevation gain over 4.8 miles, riders make their way back down the hill and pass through Golden one more time before heading to the Mile High City. Riders will then make six laps of a five-mile circuit along Speer Boulevard before reaching the finish line in front of Denver’s State Capitol Building, where the winner will be crowned.

I hope all of you reading this will get a chance to view the race yourself. It is truly an event for the record books. Thank you, as always, from Vail. Ski Season is just around the corner!

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