The USA Pro Cycling Challenge kicks off again in less than a month, so we thought we'd revisit the best locations to ride like one of the pros. The competition returns to Breckenridge Aug 20-21, Beaver Creek on Aug 22, and Vail on Aug 23.
They might have bikes and equipment whose prices rival the cost of your car. They might eat, sleep and live cycling while you’re lucky to take your bike for an after-work spin or a weekend-long tour. They might make your lung-busting, quad-burning road ride looks like a walk in the park. But just because you don’t have the ripped body, deft handling or ace equipment of a pro cyclist doesn’t mean you’re stranded on the sidelines watching the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (though we all know that can be just as exciting--remember last year’s stage 3 time trial where Levi Leipheimer edged Christian Vande Velde?).
You can ride those roads too. Maybe not as fast. Maybe not riding a flashy bike. And maybe not the entire route—seven stages to total more than 600 miles—in a week. But dial it down a notch if you need to and you’ve got yourself one heck of a Colorado cycling tour. Just imagine all the calories you’d burn in the process—and the strong legs you’d give yourself for ski season.
Here’s how you can ride like the pros…without getting your rear handed to you:
Scout the StageBe honest: Your chances of cycling as a pro are slim to none. But that doesn’t mean you can’t savor the experience of crossing the finish line at a world-class event—and riding domestique at the Tour de France isn’t exactly an option. What you want is to be one of the 400 riders who can preview Stage 4, which runs from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek, mere hours before the pros pedal through. Scout the Stage starts in Leadville for a 40-mile ride, or in Minturn for an 11-mile ride; both promise race-like rides with cheering spectators, and allow racers to cross through the USA Pro Cycling Challenge finish line. There’s a final climb into Beaver Creek, plus the Leadville option tests your legs on the UPC King of the Mountain climb and a trip up and over Battle Mountain.
Aspen to VailStage 2 runs from Aspen to Breckenridge with climbs hitting 12,000-plus feet and an elevation that barely dips below 9,000 feet. But you don’t need to steer clear of this century—the recreation paths make it doable for even the average road rider (OK minus a few twists and turns like X y and Z). Two options: Ride through Leadville or hit up the path that runs through Glenwood Canyon. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Citizens’ ChallengeWant to really experience what the pros endure during their multi-day battle? Training Peaks can get you in on the action—and you don’t even need to be in Colorado or take your bike off the trainer. They created a seven-day plan that mimics that day’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage. It might not be as long (you can choose between 7-hour and 11-hour options), but it’ll still be a suffer-fest.
Circle the SummitWant a tour of the high country without having to ride nearly 144 miles from Vail to Loveland? Skip the hair-raising descents—Stage 6 promises some of the fastest downhill speeds of the week—and the 10-mile climb up Hoosier Pass, and experience that pro-level cycling at the Circle the Summit ride. The ride isn’t the longest or the toughest, but the limited-to-750-riders event does win out on its scenery, the Gore Range. The best part? It’s on Saturday.
Ride the RockiesYou’ll have to wait until June 2014 to cross this off your must-do list—and sign up early as the event is known to sell out—but Ride the Rockies could be the closest event to the Challenge, just on an amateur cyclist’s level. It’s 442 miles as opposed to 687 miles. It’s 25,000 feet of climbing versus 42,000 feet. Both last six days, run through some of the same cities and have King of the Mountain stages. Totally doable!
So who’s ready to get riding?
Headline and thumbnail photos: Java1guy