Friday, December 05, 2014

Breckenridge, Copper and Arapahoe Basin among 2015 Pro Challenge host locations; Vail out

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Sebastian Foltz /

With the ski and snowboard season barely underway in the High Country, a handful of Colorado resort destinations are already looking ahead to summer cycling fever.
Seven Colorado sites learned this week where an estimated 1 million rabid cycling fans will flock to see the fifth edition of the ever-changing USA Pro Challenge cycling stage race. Each year race organizers mix up the course with new routes and new host venues throughout the state.
“Changing the route every year keeps it exciting and fresh,” race CEO Shawn Hunter told the Summit Daily in a phone interview Thursday.
Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and surrounding Summit County will be at the center of the action for the 2015 race, while another popular nearby venue was noticeably absent.
Pro Challenge officials announced some of next year’s host sites with a twist Thursday. The start and finish of one of the race’s seven stages has yet to be determined. Fans will be able to suggest venues and a course for Stage 6 online at the race’s website.
While the exact courses will be announced in the spring, organizers released the start and finish sites for six of the seven stages.
Breckenridge, Copper Mountain Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area were selected as host locations, meaning four of the race’s seven days will start or finish, or both, in Summit.
“Summit County as a whole has been extremely supportive,” Hunter said, describing both the fans and the host locations’ organizing committees. “They’ve generated huge crowds. It’s natural that we go back. ... The crowds at Breckenridge have been as good as any stage we’ve had in four years.”
Denver, Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Golden are the additional stops that have been announced thus far.
Notable among the changes to this year’s course is the absence of the popular Vail Time Trial up Vail Pass — which was featured in three of the previous four races.
Instead, Breckenridge will host this year’s time trial stage on a course that has yet to be finalized.
While he could not confirm whether Hoosier Pass or the famously steep section of Moonstone Road will be incorporated in the time trial route, Hunter said, “It’s certain that there will be some healthy climbing.”
He added that they were exploring options for a two-lap time trial course through the town.
Equally noteworthy will be a finish at Arapahoe Basin.
“It’s going to be a very intense uphill finish,” Hunter said. “How far up we go will be determined after site visits. I think it will be one of our more spectacular finishes. It’s going to be a wild spectator experience.”
Hunter said the finish could potentially be at the top of Loveland Pass, or at the base area at A-Basin.
Another major change to this year’s event will be the starting site. For the past two years Aspen has hosted a circuit course for the race’s opening stage. This year Steamboat Springs will host the opening stage, and Aspen will host a Stage 3 finish and Stage 4 start.
As to the decision to leave Vail out of the mix this year, Hunter said it was based on Vail and Beaver Creek hosting the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February and the resources devoted to that event.
However, Vail Valley Foundation spokesman John Dakin said the foundation — which helps attract and host major events in the Vail area — had made efforts to host a portion of 2015 cycling race but was not selected.
“What we were told was that there would be times when Eagle County would not have a stop,” Dakin said.
“We actively bid for 2015,” he added, saying the foundation would still be interested in being considered for Stage 6.
“If the online folks decide that they want to see a Vail stop, then we’ll be happy to welcome them back,” he said regarding the yet-to-be-determined Stage 6 sites. “Right now this is up to the Pro Challenge. It’s their tour and their process and we respect that.”
Hunter indicated that Vail would not be involved this year, adding, “in the future we will talk to them about 2016 and beyond.”
He also said that the Pro Challenge no longer has a bidding process but instead meets with organizing committees in order to make its selections.
Looking to the future, Dakin said, “We’re confident that we will be back on the schedule as early as 2016.”
The 2015 race will take place Monday, Aug. 17, through Sunday, Aug. 23. From the opening circuit-course stage in Steamboat, the race will head to a finish at A-Basin for Stage 2. Stage 3 will run from Copper Mountain to Aspen.
The following day the competition will return to Summit with a course between Aspen and Breckenridge. Breck will then host a time trial for Stage 5. Stage 6 has yet to be decided. Hunter said it will need to start at a location within a two-hour drive from Breck. The stage finish will also need to be within a two-hour transition distance to the Stage 7 start in Golden, so that participants and their crews will not have to travel too far between sites.
The final stage will run on a course from Golden to Denver incorporating laps through Golden and up and down Lookout Mountain — a popular previous location.
The specific routes for each stages will be determined early in 2015, Hunter said. Rabbit Ears, Independence, Hoosier and Vail passes all are in the mix to be included in the route.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.