USA Pro Challenge Stage 1 preview: Steamboat Springs circuit race (video)
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USA Pro Challenge Stage 1 — Steamboat Springs circuit
Start time: 10:40 a.m.
Finish: 3:13 p.m. to 4:38 p.m.
What to watch: Route 27 “King of the Mountain” climb and race finish near Steamboat Springs courthouse
Who to watch: Matthew Busche, Rohan Dennis, Kiel Reijnen, BMC Racing Team, Team Axeon
2014 Stage 1 winner: Kiel Reijnen
Fun fact: Steamboat Springs got its’ name when early trappers mistook the sound of thundering hot springs for a steamboat coming down the Yampa River.
The 2015 USA Pro Challenge makes its debut on Aug. 17 with a circuit through the Steamboat Springs area. Wrapping its way through rolling Routt County, riders in Stage 1 cover a 49-mile circuit twice before the first winner of the race is crowned.
The route may not have the highest elevation gain, but it still offers a few climbs and small hills, as well as some of the most varied terrain out of any stage, with a 23-mile flatland sprint through Steamboat.
King of the Mountain
Starting off from Evans Street in downtown Steamboat, the course leaves town and eventually heads southeast on Route 27 toward Highway 121. About 22 miles into the ride, the “King of the Mountain” (KOM) challenge for the stage begins. The Pro Challenge tracks performances on the steepest grades of the race, collecting points for the coveted King of the Mountain climber’s jersey.
Known as the polka dot jersey for the Tour de France, the King of the Mountain is a badge of honor for any cycling race and has been worn by cycling greats like Eddy Merckx and Lance Armstrong. The KOM section of Stage 1 will feature a 26-mile, Category 4 climb.
Once on the downhill from this climb, cyclists will travel through the small town of Oak Creek, and then head back north on Highway 131 towards Steamboat for the sprint portion of the stage. Back in Steamboat, cyclists will then repeat the circuit before finishing along Lincoln Avenue in front of the Steamboat Springs courthouse.
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Catch the action
There will be a number of locales in this stage that provide excellent viewpoints for spectators. For the start, anywhere along 13th Street is prime to catch the early scrum. If looking for a KOM perspective, Little Trout Creek is a scenic location and located shortly after the start of the KOM section. The slow, bubbling creek is a quintessential Colorado backdrop. To catch the finishing sprint, set up along Lincoln Avenue near the courthouse. The finish promises to be unforgettable, as competitors chase through downtown Steamboat, pedaling at breakneck speeds in pursuit of a Stage 1 win.
Riders to watch
Since the circuit provides such a variety of terrain, the stage will be almost anyone’s for the taking. Look for 2014 Pro Challenge fifth-place overall finisher Matthew Busche and 2015 Tour de France Stage 1 winner Rohan Dennis to make strong pushes for the yellow jersey, along with anyone from BMC Racing, the 2014 Pro Challenge team champion.
The winner of stage one will need to stay near the front of the pack through the KOM climbs excel in the final sprint. The last 24 miles are all downhill, so this stage will likely be defined by individual energy and team strategy immediately following the final climb.
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