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August 22, 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge begins today

Filed under: cycling,racing — Tags: — Roger @ 12:24 pm

We in the Midwest are still lamenting the death of the Tour of Missouri, but its replacement on the U.S. racing schedule promises to be an exciting addition.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge opens this afternoon with a five-mile Prologue time trial through Colorado Springs. It ends Sunday with a climb of Lookout Mountain and a descent into downtown Denver.

Here’s a quick look at the race:

The field: The Tour of Missouri pulled off a major coup in the inaugural 1997 race when Alberto Contador, fresh off a Tour de France victory, joined his Discovery teammates in the trek through Missouri.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge has topped that. The entire podium from this year’s race — winner Cadel Evans and runners-up Frank and Andy Schleck — are racing in Colorado this year.

Top Americans in the field include Tom Danielson, who finished ninth in this year’s tour, as well as Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie.

The Challenge is going head-to-head against the Vuelta a Espana. While many of the world’s top cyclists are laboring in Spain, Ivan Basso, Jens Voigt and Stuart O’Grady are in Colorado.

The route: Much of the route, of course, is in the Rocky Mountains. Every day will be a challenge, but the most interesting one should be Wednesday, the 131-mile Stage 2 from Gunnison to Aspen.

Stage 2 features two mountain passes exceeding 12,000 feet, Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet) and Independence Pass (12,095 feet). If that isn’t enough, much of the 13.7-mile climb to Cottonwood Pass will be on a dirt road!

Stage 3 is a 10-mile uphill time trial that starts in Vail and climbs Vail Pass on a frontage road along Interstate 70.

Watching the USA Pro Cycling Challenge: Each day of the race will be broadcast live. From today through Saturday, the race will be on Versus. Pre-race coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. CDT, and live racing coverage  begins at 3 p.m. Post-race coverage begins at 10 p.m.

Sunday’s Stage 6 final will be shown live on NBC. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. CDT.

You also will be able to follow the race at The Shack Tour Tracker.

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