Following Monday’s fast-paced Stage 1, riders will leave Aspen and head to Crested Butte for Stage 2 of the USA Pro Challenge Tuesday. At Sunday’s pre-race press conference, Boulder-based Garmin Sharp rider Tom Danielson said the second stage could be a decisive day.
“Usually the guy that wins at Crested Butte is on the podium at the end.”
While Crested Butte was not featured in the 2013 race, it hosted a finish in each of the race’s first two years — 2011 and 2012. Last year’s GC winner Tejay van Garderen won the stage back in 2012 when he finished second overall.
After a short 61-mile circuit course for Day 1 in Aspen, riders will really be challenged on this 105-mile Day 2 course. With two big climbs over McClure and Kebler passes and a steep uphill right before the finish at Mount Crested Butte, this could be a big day for climbing specialists. Those not acclimated to altitude may start to really show some weaknesses as the course heads over the two high mountain passes.
From Aspen the course runs through Basalt and Carbondale giving sprinters an opportunity to shine before riders head up over both McClure (8,763 feet) and Keebler (9,980 feet) passes. Uphill will be the theme for the day with a difference of 2,000 feet in elevation between the start in Aspen and the finish in Crested Butte (9,090 feet). Following a sprint section in Carbondale and the climb over McClure Pass, riders will also face a challenging 20-mile roller coaster on Gunnison County Road 12. Alternating between pavement and dirt, this could make for an unpleasant stretch depending on conditions. After the climb over Keebler Pass the stage will finish with a sprint through downtown Crested Butte and a steep climb to Mount Crested Butte. Tuesday’s stage also features three King of the Mountain competitions — one on each of the passes and a final climb near the finish.
Tuesday’s stage will get underway with an 11:10 a.m. start. TV coverage is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on NBCSN. The race can also be streamed live online at www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com. Organizers anticipate riders will finish the stage at around 3:40 p.m.
Breckenridge will host the Stage 5 finish Friday, Aug. 22, and Vail will host a time trial for the second year in a row Saturday. The race concludes Sunday, Aug. 24, in Denver.