The 4th edition of the USA Pro Challenge kicks off on August 18 in Aspen and ends when the winner rolls through the streets of Denver on August 24. In between, there are plenty of chances to watch the action and after the racers have passed, hop on your own ride, log into Strava and give the course a spin on your own.
Last year, there was plenty of excitement: Peter Sagan came from behind and wowed the crowd by winning his fourth stage in the final meters of the downtown Denver sprint. Tejay van Garderen and Janier Acevedo battled in the hills and rocketed down to an exciting finish at Beaver Creek. There were cowbells, crashes, alliances, breakaways and plenty of tight pants. This year promises to be just as good.
Here are a few helpful tips if you want to check out the race at any stage: One of the best ways to get into the action is to volunteer (apply at prochallenge.com/volunteer-signup); most who do become assistant course marshals, ensuring the safety of the cyclists while in the heart of the fray. Study the course map—often you can jump around and catch the riders several times on loop courses. If you want to see the finish, get there early. No matter what, be sure to download the race app on iTunes so you know exactly where the riders are on the course.
If you are really serious about being a part of the scene, consider one of the race’s hospitality packages. They range from spots at each start to luxe lodgings along the way to opportunities to race the course along with coaches and mechanics.
Now, here’s our advice for each individual stage:
Stage 1 Aspen to Snowmass Village
Once again, the race begins in Aspen, making three loops through town and Snowmass village and racking up 65 miles and 6,900 feet of constant vertical. We like the idea of enjoying watching the riders stream through downtown for the start and finish and taking time in between for sushi or a drink. Snowmass Village has affordable lodging options—rent a condo with friends and relax.
Stage 2 Aspen to Crested Butte
The most iconic spot to watch the race is on this stage. The riders face one of their toughest challenges as they head out of Aspen through Carbondale and then climb McClure Pass. That sets them up for a gnarly grunt up and descent down into Crested Butte via the dirt road of Kebler Pass. This is sure to be the most exciting part of the race. If you can’t be on the road, the finish through town and up the hill to Mt. Crested Butte should be hot.
Stage 3 Gunnison to Monarch Mountain
Here’s a cruel stage. On this day, the race climbs up over 11,300-foot Monarch Pass and dumps down for loops in the streets of Salida—only to climb back up the pass to finish at Monarch Mountain ski area. It’s a touch call as to where you should base yourself: town should be exciting but the finish at Monarch could also be epic.
Stage 4 Colorado Springs
Now it’s time for a sprint. This day includes a
four-lap, 16-mile circuit through town, making it an ideal stage for the casual observer to check out.
Stage 5 Woodland Park to Breckenridge
Now it’s back up to the mountains with long, sustained climbing over 104 miles and topping out at 11,539-foot Hoosier Pass before a rocketing into Breckenridge. It also includes what the promoters promise should be lots of speed on the newly paved Tarryall Road (Route 77) in Pike National Forest. Breck will be buzzing for the finish and Red Hill Pass will offer up big views for photographers.
Stage 6 Vail
If you like history, this is the stage for you. The race goes into time trial mode for the climb up Vail Pass. This was once the route of the famed Coors Classic back in the 1980s. The legendary Andy Hampsten set the course record back then and it was not broken (by just 45 seconds) until 2008 by Benjamin Day at the Vail Mountain Games.
Stage 7 Boulder to Denver
The easiest way for Front Rangers to check out the action is to… stay home. The final stage promises to be full of cowbells. It makes a grand tour, starting in Boulder, heading down CO 93, cruising through Golden, and coming in hot to downtown Denver.