Vail Pass Time Trial returns for 2013 USA Pro Challenge

Beaver Creek also back as a finishing venue, with a twist

By Real Vail
Real AspenApril 25, 2013
Back in August, USA Pro Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter said his cycling race would one day return to Vail. Turns out he’s a man of his word.

The pivotal stage of the inaugural stage race in 2011 will return for the 2013 version as race organizers announced the route for the Aug. 19-25 stage race on Thursday. The Vail Pass Time Trial was conspicuously absent from the 2012 version of the race.

“This year we are, once again, taking [spectators] to the highest point of any professional cycling race with Independence Pass,” Hunter said in a press release. “We’re also returning to the iconic Time Trial route in Vail. The best in the sport will be racing through Colorado communities for what will be an epic week in professional cycling.”

The race will start in Aspen on Aug. 19 and end in Denver on Aug. 25 after traveling 599 miles through eight Colorado cities. The Aug. 22 stage will travel from Steamboat Springs – another returning city – to Beaver Creek. The on Aug. 23, the world’s best professional cyclists will head up Vail Pass in reprise of an original Coors Classic stage.

Some racers lamented the axing of the Vail Pass Time Trial in favor of a time trial finish in Denver last year.
The Vail Pass Time Trial will be back for the 2013 USA Pro Challenge cycling race.

“We are excited to have Beaver Creek back on the schedule for the finish of Stage 4, especially with the resort being part of the Queen Stage,” said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation and president of the Vail and Beaver Creek local organizing committee. “We are also extremely pleased to be able to bring the Time Trial back to Vail. Not only was it one of the most exciting and historic stages of the inaugural tour, but it is also a very challenging course for the riders, given its uphill nature.”

The road to the final podium in Denver goes straight over Beaver Creek’s Bachelor Gulch. A new start in Steamboat will send the race off into Routt County, with this roller coaster of small hills giving way to a gentle route south, prior to the racers climbing up from the river bottom at State Bridge.

The new approach to Beaver Creek will now send the racers up the new Bachelor Gulch climb. While it may not be the longest or most well-known climb, it is quite possibly the toughest. The relentless grade, with pitches up to 18 percent, will do real damage and create the sort of epic racing for which the Pro Challenge is known. After topping Bachelor Gulch, the leaders still have to race down a technical descent and power up the final two-kilometer climb to Beaver Creek Village.

Last August, Germany’s Jen’s Voigt surprised the entire field in Stage 4, jumping out to solo breakaway just prior to the summit of Independence Pass and holding a two-minute lead all the way to the finish line in Beaver Creek. As the German approached the finish line, race fans jammed into Beaver Creek Village and lined the 2.5-mile final climb, located just beyond the skier bridge.

The last time the USA Pro Challenge visited Vail, the Time Trial was decided by 58-hundredths of a second.

Starting in Vail and climbing most of the way up Vail Pass, the route is no easy proposition, even for the best racers on earth. The gentle grades of the first half of the course give way to a steady climb for the last three miles. But it takes more than legs on this strategic course; go too hard early and the climb may kill your chances, but conserve too much for the climb and the leader board may be out of reach.

Two years ago, eventual tour champion Levi Leipheimer essentially solidified his overall victory with a win in the Vail Time Trial, edging runner-up Christian VandeVelde to take the win and the lifetime Vail/Beaver Creek season pass.

The Vail and Beaver Creek stages of the 2013 U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge will be organized through a collaborative effort involving the Vail Valley Foundation, the Town of Vail, Vail Resorts, the Beaver Creek Resort Company and cycling enthusiasts throughout the Vail Valley.

More information can be found online at www.USAProChallenge.com.

Highlights of the route include:

Stage 1: Aspen Circuit Race – Monday, Aug. 19

The 2013 USA Pro Challenge begins with its biggest opening day hurdle ever. The new for 2013 Aspen/Snowmass Circuit may be short on distance, but it packs a punch that will welcome the riders to Colorado. Consisting of three 22-mile laps, 66 miles total, Stage 1 packs in 3,080 ft. of climbing per lap with minimal recovery, so this is no easy start. Each lap will see the racers fight for position onto the narrow, but beautiful Maroon Creek Bridge, then grind up to Snowmass Village. A quick descent leads to two short, but steep climbs and a quick loop through downtown before doing it all again. Pair that with a starting elevation of 7,900 ft. and you have one tough opening day. No one will win the 2013 USA Pro Challenge on this opening day, but without a strong start, someone could lose it.

Stage 2: Aspen to Breckenridge – Tuesday, Aug. 20

While much of the Stage 2 course has been used in previous years, 2013 will mix things up by taking the riders in different directions, creating a unique new stage. The familiar battleground of Independence Pass will be anything but easy as riders ascend the 12,000 ft. climb, the highest point reached in any professional cycling race. Then they’ll continue on through some familiar spots as the race zooms through Buena Vista, Fairplay and Alma, before tackling Hoosier Pass from the south this year. But it’s not over until it’s over, so before crossing the line the riders will have to conquer the nasty 15 percent grade of Moonstone Rd. in the heart of Breckenridge, before bombing down Boreas Pass to the waiting crowd.

Stage 3: Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs – Wednesday, Aug. 21

Stage 3 will be difficult to predict for even the biggest cycling fans. Can the climbers hold off the field or can the sprinters hang on? Stage 3 of this year’s USA Pro Challenge is wide open for the taking. After leaving Breckenridge, Swan Mountain Rd. provides a great launch pad for breakaways as the riders weave north to Kremmling, but it’s all just a prelude to the day’s main showdown on Rabbit Ears Pass. Climbing the challenging eastern slope will give the climbers a chance, but they will have to hold off the sprinters for 20 miles after cresting the top as they head downtown Steamboat Springs. Can they do it? Or will there be a repeat of 2011’s thrilling and monstrous field sprint?

Stage 4: Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek – Thursday, Aug. 22

Stage 4 is the Queen Stage of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge. It features some previously used terrain, but with some added spice. One thing is for sure, the road to the final podium in Denver goes straight over Bachelor Gulch. A new start in Steamboat will send the race off onto new country roads around Routt County. This roller coaster of small hills gives way to a gentle route south until the racers have to climb up from the river bottom at State Bridge. That’s just the beginning, as the new approach to Beaver Creek will now send the racers up the new climb of Bachelors Gulch. It may not be the longest or most well-known climb, but it is quite possibly the toughest. The relentless grade with pitches up to 18 percent will do real damage and create the sort of epic racing for which the Pro Challenge is known. After Bachelor Gulch, the leaders still have to race down a technical descent and power up the final 2 km climb to Beaver Creek Village. By that time the winner may not even have the strength left for a victory salute.

Stage 5: Vail Individual Time Trial – Friday, Aug. 23

The last time the USA Pro Challenge visited Vail, the Time Trial was decided by 58 hundredths of a second. Competition will be equally fierce this time around, but the names may change a bit. The course’s roots are in Colorado racing lore and trace back to the Coors Classic. Starting in Vail and climbing most of the way up Vail Pass, the route is no easy proposition, even for the best racers on earth. The gentle grades of the first half of the course give way to a steady climb for the last three miles. But it takes more than legs on this strategic course; go too hard early and the climb may kill your chances, but conserve too much for the climb and the leaderboard may be out of reach.

Stage 6: Loveland to Ft. Collins – Saturday, Aug. 24

With a flat speed-fest scheduled for Sunday in Denver, any contenders for the Leader Jersey will have only this stage left to make a move or lose it all. The outskirts of Loveland will see the racers off as they spend some early miles on the flat windswept plains passing through Windsor and back to Loveland. Then it’s up Big Thompson Canyon where things will heat up. Split north onto Devils Gultch, the race’s last King of the Mountains competition, before hitting Estes Park and back down Big Thompson. Horsetooth Reservoir provides one last chance for aggression on its steep rollers. If no one gets away here, look for the sprinters to have their day.

Stage 7: Denver Circuit Race – Sunday, Aug. 25

We marvel at their raw speed. We watch their daring moves and nerves of steel as they fight for position with awe. We gasp at their handling skills. They are the sprinters. And for six days they have been fighting over mountains trying to stay with racers 20 or more pounds lighter. They have flirted with thin air and time cuts, but today belongs to them. The Denver Circuit takes the best parts of the 2011 and 2012 Denver stages and combines them into a new circuit. It still hits all the Denver highlights – LoDo, City Park, Civic Center Park. There isn’t a bad viewing spot. Watch for early breakaways…can they hold off the surging peloton? Watch the teams cue up and try to set up their sprinters…can they get to the front? Watch the last corner and see who has the nerve to take it the fastest and claim the final prize in the shadow of Colorado’s Capitol.

Host city information, maps and elevation profiles are available on the race website.


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