Pro Challenge starting line? We’ll take it

Cycling race announces 2014 race has stage that begins in Boulder

Stage 3 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.
Photo by Garrett Ellwood, GettyImages

Cyclists rejoice. Out of the dark of winter, a time of year
that usually offers little for cyclists to celebrate, unless you like frozen
fingers and noses and skidding out on the ice, comes an announcement sure to
warm the hearts of cyclists and bike racing spectators alike: Colorado’s
favorite bike race is coming back to Boulder in 2014. USA Pro Challenge
officials have announced a final stage for the race with a starting line in
Boulder. Officials took the tough decision of mapping the route for the race to
fans this year, allowing them to vote on four proposed routes for Stage Seven
of the week-long multi-stage road biking race. The options including a circuit
race in Denver, a start in Golden that finished in Denver and a start in
Boulder that ended in Golden.

Fans voted in a stage that will see cyclists lining up for a
starting line Boulder, racing through Golden, where a record number of fans
gathered in 2012, climbing Lookout Mountain and finishing by cranking out three
laps around the golden dome (we hope repairs are done by August) of the State
Capitol building. A downtown Denver finish has become a tradition for the race,
now approaching its fourth year. And while it’s no Flagstaff Mountain finish,
we’ll take the tour in whatever phase as cause to celebrate after at 2013 route
that didn’t come closer to Boulder than Lyons and the Peak to Peak Highway.

The Pro Challenge is often touted as the toughest race in
the country, boasting mountaintop finishes after seeing riders race up grueling
mountain passes and rip through harrowing descents. It also claims to be one of
the largest spectator events in the history of the state.

“The 2014 USA Pro
Challenge is going to be the most exciting year yet,” Rick Schaden , owner of
the USA Pro Challenge, said in a press release. “Boulder, Golden and Denver
have been such great hosts over the history of the race, so we decided to work
them all into the final day of competition. These three iconic Colorado cycling
locations are going to create one grand finale!”

The stage starting in Boulder caps off seven days of racing
which will see riders once again completing a circuit race through Aspen and
Snowmass Village before riding stages that run from Aspen to Crested Butte,
Gunnison to Monarch Mountain and Woodland Park near Colorado Springs to
Breckenridge and racing in an uphill time trial at Vail and completing a
circuit race through Colorado Springs. Woodland Park and Monarch Mountain are
new stops for the race. Woodland Park, called the “City Above the Clouds,” sits
at 8,465 feet in elevation and is surrounded by national forest. Monarch
Mountain, elevation 10,790 feet, will be the site for the race’s first ever
mountaintop finish.

“I have been lobbying for the USA Pro Challenge to add a
mountaintop finish to the race ever since the first edition, so I was thrilled
to hear Stage 3 of the 2014 race will finish on Monarch Mountain,” Tom
Danielson of Team Garmin-Sharp said in a press release. “Colorado has some of
the most beautiful mountains in the world and the USA Pro Challenge draws some
of the best riders in the world, so it makes perfect sense to add in a
challenging mountaintop finish. I have ridden Monarch many times, so I’ll be
ready when the race rolls around in August.”

And so, no doubt, will the crowds of sign-bearing,
costume-wearing, ready-to-run-alongside-the-riders spectators. A season of
cheer, indeed.