Tour winner to race through county |

Tour winner to race through county

Geoff Mintz
summit daily news
Tour de France winner Cadel Evans of Australia, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, cycles with his BMC teammates along the Champs Elysees during the victory parade after winning the Tour de France cycling race in Paris, France, Sunday July 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Officials with the USA Pro Cycle Challenge said late Thursday that Cadel Evans, fresh off a win at cycling’s most grueling race, will be among the riders sprinting it out down Main Street, Breckenridge at the end of August.

For race organizers, the addition of Evans and other top-tier riders is more than they expected at the onset. Everyone knew they would get the top teams in the world, but they expected the B-squad, the benchwarmers from those teams.

To the contrary, the best of the best are signing up to ride through Colorado. Organizers are also hoping the second- and third-place finishers at the Tour de France, Luxembourg brothers Frank and Andy Schleck of Leopard-Trek, will join Evans and 125 other riders in the 500-mile test.

That would mark the first time the 1-2-3 finishers in Paris competed in an American bike race.

“We’re tremendously excited about it,” said co-chair of the local organizing committee Mike Schilling, who has been involved in planning the Summit County leg since the beginning. “The highest-caliber riders will be at the race. I think when this race first came out, we were thinking it would be an American race; an American would come win this thing. They’re going to have their work cut out for themselves now.

“This is a surprise – above and beyond what we expected,” he added. “For them to bring the actual champion riders, we thought maybe we’d have one or two of those guys. I think this is going to be the best professional field to race in the United States in the last 15-20 years.”

The only stateside comparison is the Tour of California, which spent years building its brand. Schilling attributes the pre-race success to the Rocky Mountains.

“The main thing is the terrain and the topography of Colorado,” he said. “Colorado is known throughout the world as being one of the very best places to ride a bike. These professionals have a choice of what races they want to go do. And when they get an opportunity to race in Colorado, they jump on it because many of them have never actually been here, like any other tourist.”

More eyes on the TV

When the event was created and Breckenridge landed the stage finish, planners had to put a lot of faith in the race’s promoter, Medalist Sports. For local organizers, having Evans sign up for the race only means there will be more people watching around the world, and it will be that much more exciting.

“This will draw a lot more national and international attention,” Schilling said. “The more people watching, the more we can showcase our community.”

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is expected to be the largest spectator event in Colorado history and one of the largest sporting events to ever take place in the United States, Medalist Sports, the race’s promoter, says.

For seven consecutive days, 128 of the world’s top athletes will race across 518 miles through the Rockies, reaching higher altitudes than they’ve ever had to endure, more than two miles in elevation.

Last weekend, the 34-year-old Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour, and his commitment gives the Colorado race a marquee draw for spectators and the national and international television audiences. The race will be broadcast in more than 100 countries and territories.

“It’s huge. It’s a great moment of truth for our race and it’s a great thing for American cycling,” Shawn Hunter, race CEO and co-chairman, said of Evans’ commitment.

Evans is a member of American-based cycling team BMC, one of 16 eight-man teams that will participate in the race, Colorado’s first on the pro cycling circuit since the Coors International Bicycle Classic ended its run in 1988.

Teams will announce their rosters next week, and Hunter said the Schleck brothers would make for “a world-class field for a first-year race. The yellow jersey and the second- and third-place finishers, it would be unprecedented.

“But regardless of what happens, having the yellow jersey is great for American cycling,” Hunter said.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will feature the two highest climbs in competitive international cycling history on the same stage on the third day, something the International Cycling Union had to sign off on.

The race through Colorado’s front range and the Rocky Mountains begins with an ultra-fast prologue in which riders will descend from the Garden of the Gods at 50-plus mph and into Colorado Springs. The race ends in downtown Denver on Aug. 28.

– The Associated Press

contributed to this report

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