It’s the fifth year for the USA Pro Challenge race and it’s Summit’s chance to shine. With four stages of the men’s race going through the county, and with a brand-new women’s race added, there’s going to be a lot to take in this time around. Here’s a quick guide on what you need to know for the event in 2015.
The first Pro Challenge race took place in 2011 and was originally known as the Quizno’s Pro Challenge. Then-governor of Colorado Bill Ritter and former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong announced the race one year before. Even in its first year, the race drew more than 100 professional riders, including many international athletes.
The 2011 race started in Colorado Springs, at the Garden of the Gods national monument. Stage 5 featured a finish in Breckenridge after a 105-mile ride from Steamboat Springs. American rider Levi Leipheimer was the overall winner.
In 2012 the racecourse changed along with the name. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge started in Durango and came to Breckenridge once again in Stage 5, this time for a start. Christian Vande Velde, also American, won the overall race.
In its third year, ‘cycling’ was dropped from the name and the route changed once again. Breckenridge hosted a Stage 2 finish and a Stage 3 start, bidding the riders both hello and goodbye down its Main Street stretch. Tejay van Garderen of Aspen won the event overall.
Last year, the town once again featured prominently as the finish line for the grueling Stage 5. A Woodland Park start led the riders on an elevation-gaining path to Fairplay, where the sprint challenge took place. Next they tackled an ascent of Hoosier Pass to battle it out in a King of the Mountain climbing challenge, which, after a quick descent down the north side of Hoosier, continued on to steep Moonstone Road. It then ended on Breckenridge Main Street. Tejay van Garderen defended his title, winning for a second time in a row.
WELCOMING THE WOMEN
The biggest news this year is the addition of a professional women’s race to the USA Pro Challenge event. The race will take place over three days, starting in Breckenridge on August 21. According to USA Pro Challenge officials, the women racers will be competing for the same amount of prize money as the men, which isn’t always the case between men’s and women’s races both in the U.S. and abroad.
2015 MEN’S ROUTE
This year will mark a first with Summit County featuring in four of the seven men’s stages. The first will be a Stage 2 finish at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, followed by a Stage 3 start at Copper Mountain Resort, heading on toward Aspen. The race returns to Breckenridge in the next stage, taking the riders from Aspen, over Independence Pass, Trout Creek Pass, through Fairplay and over Hoosier Pass, before the muscle-burning 15 percent grade climb of Moonstone Road, then ending on Main Street Breckenridge. Stage 5 is the Breckenridge Time Trial, a new feature this year. Riders will compete on an 8.5-mile course that starts flat, climbs back up Moonstone Road and finishes downhill on Boreas Pass.
Here are a few suggestions on the best way to enjoy the bike spectacle of the season.
1. Don’t get stuck
The excitement and fun of an event like this has its downside, and that is road closures. Be sure to keep an eye on when and where the closures will take place so you don’t get stuck somewhere. The Summit Daily News and the Breckenridge Pro Challenge website (www.BreckProCycling.com) will both have updates on transportation impact. The Breck site will provide info on parking as well. Closures will also be distributed through the Summit County Alert system, which can be received via email or mobile by visiting SCAlert.org.
2. Find the right location
The right location all depends on what you most want to get out of the race. If you want to see the racers lined up and taking off, get to the starting line (stage 3 at Copper Mountain) early. If you’re interested in the time trials or climbing challenges, check out the route beforehand and find a comfortable spot alongside it from which to cheer.
“Moonstone is a really iconic location to watch those riders,” said Kim Dykstra with the Breckenridge Local Organizing Committee.
For some great close-ups, you can always check out the Jumbotron screen, which is usually set up on the Riverwalk Center lawn in Breckenridge. If you’re more interested in the atmosphere of celebration than rubbing elbows with a jostling crowd, consider heading to a nearby bar and watching on the TV while enjoying a delicious local craft brew.
3. Keep an eye on the sidelines
While the race itself is pretty darn cool, there will also be a lot of auxiliary events happening around it that are sure to be worth at least an Instagram or two. In past years, Breckenridge has hosted Stryder bike races for kids, pond crossing challenges for brave adults (who don’t mind an imminent dip in the water) and even built their own “Bikeiffel Tower” out of spare bike parts. The Summit Daily News and local town websites will have updates on any nearby events for people to join in, so keep an open mind and be ready for anything.
4. Dress up
Just because it’s a race doesn’t mean it has to be a completely serious affair. While the riders are confined to wearing the colors and logos of their sponsors, the crowd is free to go nuts and wear the costume they didn’t pick for Halloween last year. Or try out a few options for the coming Halloween. Don’t be surprised to see Ullr hats (that’s Viking hats to non-locals), coconut bras, gorilla suits and everything in between. If you do dress up, be sure to take a picture and send it toSocialSummit@summitdaily.com for a chance to get it in the paper or online. Won’t that be a story for the grandkids!
5. Check out everything
While the men’s and women’s races are the big spectacle, there’s plenty of stuff to do beyond that. The Pro Challenge happens to coincide with the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts, so expect to see some crossover between the two events. The Breckenridge Arts District is an easy destination at only two blocks off Main Street.
Additionally, there will be tons of ancillary events happening at every stage, anywhere from local bike events to concerts, so be sure and keep an eye out for all that Summit has to offer.