128 of the best cyclists in the world have descended on Colorado Springs, Colorado today to kick off the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The six-day event begins with a prologue today and includes four stages and a time trial, spread out over 600-miles of the Rocky Mountains and the highest altitude course ever.
The field is full of tough competitors, including Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, as well as both Frank and Andy Schleck. In all, 17 teams will be competing in the race, which is the first pro-cycling event in Colorado in a decade. To make the event a memorable one, the course designers decided to add plenty of challenges to the race, including some major climbs, dizzying descents, and plenty of that trademark Colorado thin air.
Things officially get underway later today when the riders take to the street for a short 5.18 mile prologue. It gets a lot more interesting tomorrow however, when they'll hit the road for a 100 mile long stage that features more than 8000 feet of climbing, reaching altitudes in excess of 11,300 feet. That's only the beginning however, as most of the rest of the stages will offer similar climbs, and the time trial on Thursday will include more than 1200 feet of climbing, with the entire stage staying above 8000 feet. Hopefully these guys have spent a few days acclimatizing, as this is going to be one long week of riding.
Velonews has a nice breakdown of the stages, which can be read here and will no doubt have good coverage of the event throughout the week. It should be fun to watch how the race unfolds, as it seems like it should be a beautiful, yet very challenging course. I hope it is a big success, as it is always great to see another cycling event here in the States.