The third annual USA Pro Challenge in August will feature a new route from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek, which will include a ride over Bachelor Gulch and a grade of up to 18 percent, race organizers announced Thursday.
The announcement of the specific routes of the seven-day stage race Aug. 19-25 offered few surprises, with 70 percent of the routes having being used in the previous two races.
However, the Steamboat Springs-Beaver Creek Stage 4 on Aug. 22 could be the most grueling. Labeled the race's "Queen Stage," it will give Steamboat Springs its second start. Steamboat also hosted a start in 2011, as well as a finish.
Also for the first time, the race will go onto county roads across Routt County, which will feature rolling hills to a river bottom up to State Bridge.
That will send riders up the inaugural Bachelor Gulch climb with pitches up to 18 percent. From the top, riders then negotiate a technical descent before going up the final steep 1.2 miles to the finish in Beaver Creek Village.
"That will be a punishing day," race CEO Shawn Hunter said Thursday. "The journey from Steamboat to the final climb is a lot more difficult than what happened between Aspen and Beaver Creek."
The race will begin in Aspen for the first time. It will feature three 22-mile laps, including 9,240 feet of climbing during the day. The route goes over Maroon Creek Bridge, then up to Snowmass Village before a quick descent leading to short, steep climbs and a loop around downtown.
For the third year, the USA Pro Challenge will go up Independence Pass, the highest climb in North American cycling at 12,096 feet. That comes in Stage 2 from Aspen to Breckenridge on Aug. 20.
The time trial leaves Denver for the traditional host of Vail in Stage 5 on Aug. 23. In place of the time trial, Denver will host the final stage — a circuit course with eight laps going through LoDo, City Park and Civic Center with the start and finish again in front of the state Capitol.
Hunter said it wasn't complaints from fans that caused race officials to move the time trial from Denver to Vail.
"Not complaints. Just more desire," he said. "The newcomers to the sport, the fringe fan, they like seeing those guys coming through at 40 mph. They like to see them come through multiple times as opposed to seeing a guy once or twice."
For maps, elevation profiles and city information, log on to usaprocyclingchallenge.com.
John Henderson: 303-954-1299, email@example.com or twitter.com/johnhendersondp
2013 USA Pro Challenge
A day-by-day look at the route for 2013 USA Pro Challenge, which is Aug. 19-25:
Day 1: Aspen circuit race, which will be three 22-mile laps.
Day 2: Aspen to Breckenridge via Independence Pass and Hoosier Pass.
Day 3: Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs through Kremmling and Rabbit Ears Pass.
Day 4: Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek is the Queen's Stage and will go over Bachelor Gulch as the new approach to Beaver Creek.
Day 5: Vail time trial, again going up Vail Pass like in 2011 and the old Coors Classics.
Day 6: Loveland to Fort Collins as the race will go out to Windsor then back and up the Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park, then back down to Loveland and up Fort Collins via Horsetooth Reservoir.
Day 7: Denver circuit with up to eight laps through LoDo, City Park and around downtown with the traditional finish line near the state Capitol.