USA Pro Cycling Challenge comes close to home

The third annual USA Pro Cycling Challenge, featuring treacherous mountain roads and killer climbs and billed as America’s toughest cycling race, will feature two new cities this year: Loveland and Fort Collins.

On Aug. 24, stage six of the seven-stage race will begin in Loveland , head east to Windsor, back west and up to Estes Park, down Big Thompson Canyon, north to Masonville to the outskirts of Bellvue and over Bingham Hill Road to a final destination on Mountain Avenue in Fort Collins, in front of Old Town Square.

Bob Herrfeldt, race director for the Loveland/Fort Collins stage said the 117-mile route is long for a stage considering the climbs it includes. He lobbied for a few extra miles in Estes Park so that the route could circle Mary’s Lake and include what he calls “a kicker of a hill.”

Herrfeldt says the best thing about the local stage is that spectators can watch the start at The Ranch outside Loveland and then have plenty of time to bike up to Fort Collins to catch the finish four hours later. Herrfeldt recommends anyone who is a fan of NASCAR should be at the sprint points in Windsor and downtown Loveland. For those who enjoy seeing riders suffer, there’s no better spot than the top of Devil’s Gulch above Glen Haven in Big Thompson Canyon. Then bike into Estes Park and watch the riders come back through. Closer to home, Horsetooth Mountain Park and Horsetooth Reservoir will be the back drop for the final miles where riders will test their legs over a series of dams. Party lovers may find their favorite viewing spot is joining the crowd to see the finish in Old Town.

From 25 countries, 128 of the world’s fastest cyclists will compete on 16 professional teams. Starting in Aspen on Aug. 19, the route will cover 683 miles between Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Beaver Creek, Vail, Loveland/Fort Collins, and finish with a time trial in Denver. Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge explained that prime considerations when choosing a course are the safety of the riders and the opportunity for good viewing spots for spectators.

“There is a very good chance that the 2013 Tour de France winner will be riding the roads of Larimer County on Aug. 24,” Herrfeldt said. Chris Froome, who rode into Paris wearing the yellow jersey, rides for Team Sky, which has committed to be part of the Pro Challenge.

Loveland/Fort Collins spectators can expect to see TeJay van Garderen who raced and lived in Fort Collins from 2004 to 2005 and now lives near Boulder. He rides for Team BMC and finished 45th in the Tour de France, back 1:38.57. He finished as the best young rider on the tour in 2012. Alex Hagman, a Fort Collins resident who rides for Team Jelly Belly, will be among the riders along with Boulder riders Tommy Danielson, who finished 60th in the Tour de France riding for Garmin-Sharp, and Timmy Duggan of Boulder, who rides for Team Saxo-Tinkoff, if he has recovered from an early season injury.

The Challenge is expected to draw the biggest crowds for any American bike race and is likely to have a 100 million dollar impact on Colorado. It will be broadcast in 161 countries.

In honor of this prestigious event, a mass participation ride, The Pro Challenge Experience, will take place in Northern Colorado on Aug. 11. Starting and ending in Fort Collins at New Belgium Brewery, a major sponsor of the Pro Cycling Challenge, the event will offer rides of 30, 52 and 108 miles. The 108-mile ride will feature “roadie friendly” gravel and clay roads, and an ascent to the scenic Red Feather Lakes region. Between 300 and 500 riders are expected to take part in the three races. Register at http://www.prochallengeexperience.com/.

Several mass participation events have been planned to encourage families to get involved with cycling and outdoor activity. A 9K run and a bicycle ride is scheduled in Denver on Aug. 25 before the final stage of the Pro Challenge takes place.

Larimer County residents can count themselves lucky to be able to enjoy a premier cycling event right in their own back yard.

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