The 2015 USA Pro Challenge host cities and dates have yet to be announced. In the meantime, save August planning for attending the largest spectator event in the history of the state and one of the largest cycling events in the country.
2014 USA Pro Challenge Host Cities
Each host city put on special events that celebrate cycling and the Rocky Mountain towns that love it — for racers and non-racers alike — including race festivals, concerts, bike tours, expos and more. Easy-going crowds gathered at each beautiful stage, which took riders along some of Colorado’s most difficult roads, including both sides of Independence Pass. The race returned to Aspen for the overall start, and for the first time, there was a mountaintop finish — Stage 3 atop Monarch Mountain. And for the second year in a row, it was won by BMC Racing Team's Tejay van Garderen!
2014 Pro Cycling Route
• Stage 1: Monday, Aug. 18, Aspen/Snowmass
• Stage 2: Tuesday, Aug. 19, Aspen/Crested Butte
• Stage 3: Wednesday, Aug. 20, Gunnison/Monarch Mountain
• Stage 4: Thursday, Aug. 21, Colorado Springs
• Stage 5: Friday, Aug. 22, Woodland Park/Breckenridge
• Stage 6: Saturday, Aug. 23, Vail
• Stage 7: Sunday, Aug. 24, Boulder/Denver
Experience 2014's USA Pro Challenge Route on Your Own Bike
• Beginner/Cruiser: One of the most popular cruiser routes in Aspen, the easy-riding Rio Grande Trail mirrors an old railway route on an eight-mile riverside path. Stop at the waterfall and to watch rafters rush the rapids.
• Intermediate: Smuggler/Hunter Creek Loop starts at the base of Smuggler Mountain Road for an intermediate to advanced mountain-bike climb. Singletrack and historic mining roads descend past old mining cabins with great Elk Mountains views.
• Advanced: Pedal Aspen’s most iconic road ride to Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed peaks in North America. This 11-mile, all-uphill trek passes through lush aspen groves to the twin-peaked bells. aspenchamber.org
• Beginner/Cruiser: Casual cruisers love the paved ABC Trail, which winds around town for two and a half miles. Cruiser bikes are also an easy way to get around town.
• Intermediate: For more advanced riders, Valhalla is the mountain’s most challenging downhill trail, thrilling even the most seasoned riders with more than 1,400 feet of vertical drop, berms, jumps, bridges, tabletops and rainbows.
• Advanced: The legendary 20-mile climb up 12,095-foot Independence Pass heads east on Hwy. 82, passing the Independence ghost town. This climb’s massive elevation gains and hairpin turns are only suited for experienced road riders. aspenchamber.org
• Beginner/Cruiser: At 10 miles round trip, Lower Loop is one of the town’s most popular trails and an excellent choice for wildflower-viewing and a picnic by the river with the fam.
• Intermediate: Trail 401 is a 24-mile round-trip classic for high-alpine riders with Gothic Valley views and singletrack to challenge riders ready for the 2,800 feet of cumulative elevation gain.
• Advanced: Doctor Park is a looped mountain-bike adventure with a downhill, aspen-wooded plunge into Taylor River Canyon that’ll get your adrenaline up. visitgcb.com
• Beginner/Cruiser: Van Tuyl Ranch trail meanders through a working ranch, along the Gunnison River and under the palisade, appropriate for townie bikes, fat-tire bikes, hand cycles and road bikes.
• Intermediate: Hartman Rocks Multi-Use Recreation Area is 60 miles of high-alpine desertscape singletrack paradise. Go as easy or as hard as you like on the rolling terrain that the locals bike, hike and Nordic ski on.
• Advanced: Ride the ridiculous 131-mile Queen Stage of the 2011 and 2012 USA Pro Challenge over the dirt ascent of 12,126-foot Cottonwood Pass. After a tough climb and a fast descent comes another beautiful but grueling, narrow and steep climb up Independence Pass toward Aspen. visitgcb.com
• Beginner/Cruiser: The Salida Town Tour winds through historic downtown Salida; follow the city streets and paved bike paths, refuel at local eateries, ride by the Arkansas River whitewater park.
• Intermediate: Salida Mountain Trails is a web of singletrack loops right from downtown. The stacked loop trails become more challenging as you get higher up and farther away from the trailheads. Spiral Drive is a favorite for the views.
• Advanced: For some of the country’s best single track, the Monarch Crest Trail, starting at the top of Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet hugs the Continental Divide for diverse riding and incredible scenery. nowthisiscolorado.com
• Beginner/Cruiser: National Natural Landmark Garden of the Gods Park has a mix of paved and off-road trails that weave you amid bright red-hued vertical spires and interesting rock formations like “Kissing Camels” and “Balanced Rock.”
• Intermediate: A 36-mile trek connects the New Santa Fe Regional Trail, Pikes Peak Greenway and the Fountain Creek Regional Trail from the town of Palmer Lake through Colorado Springs to Fountain, with detailed maps at trail intersections to tell you how far you’ve gone.
• Advanced: Section 16 trailhead has been a favorite for hikers and bicyclists since the 1970s. The six-mile Palmer-Red Rocks Loop trail gains 800 feet of elevation and loops through beautiful mountain scenery. visitcos.com
• Beginner/Cruiser: Tour the 14-mile paved round trip from Woodland Park to Manitou Springs via the Centennial Bike Trail. Stop at the midpoint for a picnic at Manitou Lake.
• Intermediate: For mountain bikers, Lovell Gulch is a good introduction to the area, with beautiful views, moderate climbs and easy-as-you-go downhills.
• Advanced: With 800 feet of climbing along 12.5 miles, the rolling ride around Rampart Range Reservoir parades past Pikes Peak views and is one of the area’s top destination rides. woodlandparkchamber.com
• Beginner/Cruiser: Cruise through Breckenridge and pick up picnic ingredients at The Bond on Picnic Loop. Exploring the town is a simple task via bike lanes and shared roadways.
• Intermediate: The French Gulch area offers short loops for every skill level, as well as access to a vast trail network. Whether you connect to the singletrack or keep it short for an afternoon loop, expect to see glimpses of the area’s mining past.
• Advanced: Swan Mountain Road, a classic intermediate Breck road ride, takes you above Lake Dillon for views of the Tenmile Range. Ride it out and back or continue into Dillon, across the Dam Road and return through Frisco.
• Beginner/Cruiser: Vail Recreation Path runs from West Vail to East Vail. The paved path is ideal for cruisers and stretches for 15 national-forest-surrounded miles.
• Intermediate: Vail’s popular Grand Traverse begins at Eagle’s Nest. The intermediate five-mile trail starts out easy, looping through Game Creek Bowl, and then becomes increasingly difficult as it wraps around the top of Sun Down Bowl. Mountain bikers can exit at Wildwood for incredible views.
• Advanced: Vail Pass is a 38.6-mile route perfect for those up for a challenging ride. If you prefer to coast the whole way, Vail offers shuttle service that will take cyclists to the top of
the pass to ride downhill into the village. visitvailvalley.com
• Beginner/Cruiser: The Boulder Creek Bike Path is the premier cruiser ride in town, meandering for five miles along Boulder Creek and through the historic district with spots for picnics, wading, tubing and strolling.
• Intermediate: Valmont Bike Park is the largest free urban bike park in the U.S., with 40 acres of off-road riding, competition-grade cyclo-cross racing trails, big dirt jumps, dual slalom tracks, pump tracks and slope-style trails.
• Advanced: The USAPC is loosely based on the fabled multiweek Coors Classic bike race of the 1980s. One of the most anticipated stages of the race was the Morgul-Bismark, a 13-mile loop located south of Boulder. It’s still considered a classic American road bike ride. bouldercoloradousa.com
• Beginner: The Greenway Trail is perfect for a leisurely afternoon cruise. The paved path follows the South Platte River for almost 30 miles, passing Confluence Park, Hudson Gardens and more.
• Intermediate: Bear Creek Bike Trail is a 20-mile route that follows the South Platte River to the town of Morrison and Red Rocks Amphitheatre, offering an opportunity to bike around the famed 70-million-year-old outcropping.
• Advanced: One of the most popular bike trails in Denver, the Cherry Creek Bike Path runs along the South Platte River for more than 40 miles to Franktown, passing by Cherry Creek Shopping District and Cherry Creek State Recreation Area. visitdenver.org
Past USA Pro Cycling Challenges
The 2013 race included some of the top talent in the sport and took riders through the Colorado Rockies across seven days and nearly 600 miles from Aspen to Denver and once again featured American professional cycling's highest elevation: 12,095-foot Independence Pass near Aspen. Sixteen world-class professional cycling teams from eight countries participated in the 2013 USA Pro Challenge, including Sky Procycling and 2013 first-place finisher Chris Froome. American Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing was the overall chamption. See final standings >>
Fans had two new ways to become a part of the USA Pro Challenge, as the professional cycling stage race continues to grow with the introduction of the Pro Challenge Experience presented by UnitedHealthcare in mass-participation bike ride Fort Collins on Sunday, Aug. 11, and the 9K Sprint Challenge run in downtown Denver on Sunday, Aug. 25.
2012’s seven-stage race was a 680-mile Rockies rally with more mountain passes to tackle than any race of its kind — including three trips above 12,000 feet. For spectators, it was a seven-day parade of tracking the competition, cycling celebration and fun local events. Through 12 cities from Durango to Denver (see the race route here), fans clanked cowbells, high-fived that guy dressed like a banana, watched the racers whiz by and partook in the host cities’ race festivals and natural beauty. The sixth stage finished atop Boulder’s see-forever Flagstaff Mountain and was be followed by an individual time trial through downtown Denver (with plenty of great vantage points for fans).
In the race's first year (2011), nearly 1 million people came out to see the race at some stage — that this was the inaugural event speaks to how amped Coloradans are about having such a high-profile cycling event in their state. Called the most challenging race on American soil, the inaugural USA Pro Challenge brought out the likes of Tour de France podium winners Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck and Frank Schleck — though the 2011 win went to Team RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer and 2012 went to Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda Christian Vande Velde.