USA Pro Challenge final stage preview: Golden to Denver
Special to the Daily
Men’s Stage 7
Start: 1:10 p.m.
Finish: 3:45 p.m.
What to watch: Lookout Mountain, Wheat Ridge, circuit laps at Denver City Park
Who to watch: Rohan Dennis, Kiel Reijnen, Brent Bookwalter, Jonny Summerhill, Rob Britton, Robbie Squire
2014 Stage 7 winner: Alex Howes
Fun fact: Golden was the Colorado territorial capital from 1862 to 1867.
TV Coverage: 2 p.m. on NBC
Women’s Stage 3
Start: 10:30 a.m.
Finish: 11:30 a.m.
What to watch: Final three laps after 60 minutes has expired.
Who to watch for: Kristin Armstrong, Mara Abbott, Tayler Wiles
2014 Stage 3 winner: First year of event
Fun fact: The course through downtown Golden features six sharp corners, which promises an exciting, nail-biting experience for riders and spectators
TV Coverage: Not televised
After seven memorable days of riding, the sun will finally set on the 2015 USA Pro Challenge when the men and women end in Golden and Denver Aug. 23. Riders will have biked 618.5 miles over the course of the week, crossing seven counties, ascending 11 major climbs and completing a combination of 22 King of the Mountain and sprint challenges.
From a course-perspective, the seventh stage will be the easiest route of the 2015 edition. However, the cyclist might be feeling a bit fearless on the seventh and final day of racing. Riders often say a race is determined long before the final stage, but this will still be no cakewalk.
Riders start the final climb of the race early on in stage seven. The peloton leaves downtown Golden and heads toward Boulder on U.S. Highway 93 before the route curves back to the foothills, proceeding up Lookout Mountain after 10 miles.
The Lookout climb is no joke, with 1,570 feet of elevation gain over a mere four miles. As cyclists reach the final KOM at the top, they will be greeted with a spectacular view of the Denver cityscape. But chances are these riders will have a lot more on their minds. From here on out, the race becomes a high-speed sprint as they plunge into the Front Range plains far below.
Once in Denver, riders will perform a four-lap circuit around Denver City Park before finishing on Broadway in front of Civic Center Park. Although final standings might be decided before Stage 7 begins, this doesn’t mean riders won’t be vying for late-race bragging rights. Expect tight racing in the circuit section and spirited sprints to the finish line.
Where to watch
The last stage of any cycling race is always a spectacle because riders are giving every last ounce of energy that they have. Anywhere along Lookout Mountain Road in Golden will provide a great spot to view the climbing action. Although Lookout tops out at 7,379 feet — a relatively low summit compared to Independence Pass at 12,096 feet, or even the Breckenridge start line at 9,600 — it is still a demanding Category 3 climb.
If looking for a location to watch the sprints without the headache of crowds in the city, head over to Wheat Ridge. The small suburb in west Denver provides a relaxed setting to catch race action.
None of this is to say, though, that the finishing portions in Denver aren’t worth checking out. Civic Center Park will be a raucous, festive celebration long into the afternoon, but don’t head over until the race is finished. City Park will be just as exciting, with riders circling the park four times, rather than a single pass-by in other locations. You won’t have to fight for a good position like the Broadway finish line. City Park is large, with plenty of areas to set up for the circuit action.
Who to watch
Since Stage 7 is the last, expect young riders on the cusp of the top-10 to give it all they have. In 2014, relative unknown Alex Howes made a late charge after reaching the Denver sprint section, winning the stage by less than one tire’s width. If the leader’s jersey is still in contention, expect top riders like BMC’s Rohan Dennis and Brent Bookwalter to head the charge.
Women’s Stage 3
The final women’s stage on Sunday will be just as exciting, if not more so, than the men’s. Racing a 1.5 mile circuit for 60 minutes, with three final laps following after, the winner of this stage must not only have endurance, but also must be highly strategic. A number of time bonuses lay throughout the downtown Golden course, which could be a deciding factor, in the first ever Women’s Pro Challenge championship. Expect a dramatic finish, with late comebacks in this one.
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