Cycling nuts can start picking their viewing spots for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge -- and participants now know the full extent of what they will be up against. Yesterday, organizers released full details of the route for this year's race, which will take place Agust 20-26 and lead racers from Durango to Denver. This year's race is highlighted by three trips over passes of 12,000 feet or higher and a time trial in downtown Denver that hopes to provide an exciting climax.
USA Pro Cycling Challenge released host cities in December, but all the fine points came this week. The race has four new host cities this year -- Durango, Telluride, Montrose and Boulder -- to keep things fresh. Race organizers were looking to expand across Colorado, as the inaugural race concentrated mostly on the central Rocky Mountains.
"Our goal this year when we put the route together was to make sure that it showcased the beautiful state of Colorado, number one," says Stacie Lange, spokeswoman for USA Pro Cycling Challenge. "That's why we're starting clear over in the southwest corner of the state in Durango. Number two, we wanted it to be compelling. We wanted it to be something that, right down to the very last day in Denver, provided a dramatic finish."
Long before racers can get to Denver's time trial, they will have to climb over Cottonwood Pass, which peaks at 12,126 feet, making it the highest point in any professional race in the world. In this same stage, riders will also pedal over Independence Pass, itself sitting at 12,000 feet, before riding into Aspen. There's little rest as racers have to climb Independence Pass again the next day on their way to Beaver Creek. The following day is mere child's play in terms of pass-climbing, as Hoosier Pass is a paltry 11,500 feet.
"We have three passes this year over 12,000 feet and that's pretty unique," Lange says. "There's not another race in the world that does something like that. If you look at total feet of climbing from day one to day six we've got 42,000 feet of climbing."
The race will cover 683 miles total, which is up from 518 last year. Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver will feature timed sprint circuits, allowing spectators in Boulder and Denver to see riders pass multiple times. The final time trial in Denver will attempt to eliminate a let-down of a finish, which Denver experienced last year when Levi Leipheimer pretty much had the race wrapped up heading into the capitol.
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"It's really an opportunity where the race has not been decided until that," Lange says. "Even if a rider coming into stage six is down a couple minutes in time or a minute in time, they can catch that up in a time trial. We talk often about how Greg LeMond did that in 1989 with the Tour De France. He was down 58 seconds going into that last day and the time trial happened and he was able to take the lead by over a minute. What it does is it really keeps the race competitive and it really pits the man against the clock."
Scroll down for a preview of the Denver stage.
More from our Sports archive: "USA Pro Cycling Challenge: 5 things to know about the race."