The U.S. Pro-Cycling Challenge gets underway today in Aspen, Colorado, where a talented field of riders from across the globe will be taking to the roads on another great course designed to test their legs in the mountains. Over the past few years, the event has become one of the more popular stage races on the pro-cycling tour, although its grueling routes feature plenty of climbing – and altitude – that can catch an unprepared rider completely off guard.
Amongst the riders who will be contending for the win this year will be American Tejay Van Garderen of Team BMC, Ivan Basso of Cannondale, and Fränk Schleck of Team Trek. Other fan favorites who will be riding in the event include Michael Rogers of Team Saxo Tinkoff and young American Ben King of Garmin-Sharp.
Today's Stage 1 will take riders on a 61 mile (98.1 km) circuit ride around Aspen, completing three laps en route to the finish line. Each of those laps will feature 2300 feet (701 meters) of climbing, and will give the riders very little time for recovery between each lap. Considering they'll start the day at an altitude of 7900 feet (2407 meters), their lungs had better be ready for the test.
Tomorrow's Stage 2 will be more of a traditional day on the pro-cycling circuit, with the peloton riding out of Aspen towards Crested Butte. That route will cover 105 miles (168 km), and feature a fast sprint start, that eventually gives way to plenty of climbing. Max altitude for the day will be over 9800 feet (2987 meters), which will once again test the riders.
The remaining stages will include similar distances and plenty of climbing – the hallmark of the Pro-Cycling Challenge. The race will wrap up next Sunday with a final ride from Boulder to Denver, where teams have found a warm welcome from cycling fans in the past.
It is great to see Colorado continue to become a premiere cycling destination. Good luck to all the riders in this year's race.