USA Pro Cycling Challenge comes to Aspen, August 22 and 23.
Located in a pristine mountain valley at the confluence of the Roaring Fork River, Hunter Creek, Castle Creek and Maroon Creek, Aspen's beauty is awe-inspiring. While its ski slopes are world famous, Aspen’s adventure scene heats up when the snow melts. Climbers ascend granite faces on Independence Pass, kayakers paddle class-IV rapids on the Roaring Fork River, mountain bikers weave down smooth single-track and cyclists put rubber to the pristine mountain roads. And in the warm-weather months leading up to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, like-minded outdoor enthusiasts flock to Aspen for participatory events that challenge all skill levels.
For seven consecutive days, the world’s top athletes race through the majestic Rockies, reaching higher altitudes than they’ve ever had to endure – more than two miles in elevation. One of the largest cycling events in United States history, the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge will feature the best of the best in professional cycling, competing on a challenging course through some of America’s most beautiful scenery.
Referred to as “America’s Race,” the second annual USA Pro Cycling Challenge will take place August 20-26, 2012, a week proclaimed by Governor John Hickenlooper as “Colorado Cycling Holiday,” and travel through 12 host cities from Durango to Denver. More than 1 million spectators are expected to once again line the route to see if Levi Leipheimer will defend his title as reigning champion, while millions more around the world watch the race live on television and online through the Tour Tracker. Instilling local pride this year, Aspen is the only city to host a finish as well as a Race Start.
On Aug. 22, the big event rolls into Aspen with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s “Silver Queen” stage, a 135-mile mountainous ride passing over the continental divide and dropping down Independence Pass to finish in downtown Aspen. The climb up Independence Pass is sure to produce fireworks again this year. Lined with fans in 2011, the climb to 12,095 ft. caused several gaps in the field that led to an exciting finish in Aspen, which will no doubt be duplicated in 2012. Complete with a buzzing festival and luxurious hospitality tent, Aspen’s finish line promises to be a memorable celebration.
On Aug. 23, racers will congregate in the Start Village with their teams, meet and greet fans in Autograph Alley and cycle through downtown Aspen to warm up for the challenging ride to Beaver Creek. Elevation is the main story for Stage 4 because with much of the course above 9,000 ft., it will be anything but easy. Those who conquered Independence Pass on Stage 3 will see it again very early in Stage 4, with the climb starting almost immediately after several neutral start laps in downtown Aspen. Unlike the previous day, the climb may not decide the winner, but will be an ideal launching point for a breakaway or possibly an overall contender to lose time. Anyone who is brave enough to attack over Independence Pass will be faced with more than 75 miles of racing at altitude.
“Aspen’s stages will be a kind seen only in the grand tours of Europe with long routes and steep climbs, two of which top out above 12,000 feet,” said Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland. “With two stages over Independence Pass, the race is likely to be decided in or above Aspen.”
“In determining the route for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, we wanted to showcase as much of the Rocky Mountains as possible, while creating a challenging course for the riders that would provide ideal viewing locations for spectators,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. “This year, the route will take the riders through more mountain passes than any other race of its kind, with five topping out at a minimum of 10,000 ft.”
The adventure action continues beyond the USA Pro Cycling Challenge with many more athletic events scheduled through fall 2012, including the largest doubles volleyball tournament in the US, a renowned off-road half-marathon and a bone-crunching rugby tournament that attracts competitors from around the world.
Adventure isn’t the only specialty on Aspen’s summer menu. Akin to winter’s famed après-ski attractions, Aspen’s summertime après-adventure offerings are unrivaled. From hot pool scenes spiked with creative cocktails to nearly nightly live music shows, Aspen has all the amenities of an ideal base camp. Soothe tired muscles at sublime spas, or refuel at one of 130+ fabulous restaurants. For visitors looking to flex their minds after exhausting their muscles, Aspen’s cultural calendar peaks during the summer season with daily events and weekly festivals fêting everything from food and wine to classical music and literature.