Breckenridge will once again play host to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2012, but it will be from a slightly different perspective - the racers' backside.
Breck will be the site of the Stage 5 start, which will finish in Colorado Springs on a Friday. The race is scheduled for Aug. 20-26.
The town is one of 13 cities in Colorado to be selected by the Challenge to host either a start or finish during the seven-day cycling race, which drew many of the world's best riders and massive crowds last summer. Over 40 cities applied for the privilege, and while the role of a start city doesn't quite engender the excitement of last year's Saturday afternoon finish, organizers expect fans in Breck will have more intimate access to the athletes and behind-the-scenes preparations next summer.
Although an official announcement is scheduled for Tuesday, several sources leaked the host cities and route to The Denver Post, prompting race organizers to lift the confidentiality agreement on local officials and people in the know.
Co-chair of Breck's organizing committee Mike Schilling confirmed the host cities in The Denver Post report but could not comment on the route connecting those cities. He said he and the committee are thrilled with the decision.
"This is a host-city announcement, not a route announcement. But we do know that Stage 5 starts in Breckenridge and ends in Colorado Springs," Schilling said. "They are going to change the route every year. It's important to showcase every part of the state. It's also important to keep the route fresh for the riders and for the spectators."
Breck played a very prominent role with this year's Saturday finish - a thriller with an elite group of riders including Andy Schleck getting caught by the field in the final moments on Park Avenue. Organizers expect the route and host cities to change every year, but they assume it will always end somewhere in the Denver metro area.
"A start is a different type of event. It's much more up close and personal - much more access to the athletes before the race. There's autograph row and a lot more low-key atmosphere with a start," Schilling said. "It's a really different type of event, and for Breckenridge to be a part of this, it's very exciting."
For next year's race, Steamboat got knocked out of the mix, and Vail lost its time trial. In turn, the final day of racing in Denver will be a time trial, which will likely ensure suspense up through the final day.
"We proved ourself last year pulling off the Saturday finish, which was the biggest crowd of any of the mountain towns, so we're happy to be a part of it again and continue to help build this event," Schilling said.
• Stage 1: Durango to Telluride
• Stage 2: Montrose to Crested Butte
• Stage 3: Gunnison to Aspen
• Stage 4: Aspen to Beaver Creek
• Stage 5: Breckenridge to Colorado Springs
• Stage 6: Golden or Lakewood to Boulder
• Stage 7: Denver
For race route details, visit http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_19499003