USA Pro Challenge Stage 2 preview: Steamboat Springs to A-Basin (video) |

USA Pro Challenge Stage 2 preview: Steamboat Springs to A-Basin (video)

Australian cyclist Lachlan Morton passes an avalanche danger sign in the final few miles of the Loveland Pass road route. Road rides are one of the few options for cyclists during mud season in Summit County, when most mountain bike trails are still to sloppy for bikes.
Casey Day / Special to the Daily |

USA Pro Challenge Stage 2 — Steamboat Springs to Arapahoe Basin

Start time: 10:05 a.m.

Finish: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

What to watch: Rabbit Ears Pass climb, Keystone to A-Basin final ascent

Who to watch: Janier Acevedo, Davide Formolo, Julian Arredondo, Kiel Reijnen, Team Cannondale-Garmin

2014 Stage 2 winner: Robin Carpenter

Fun fact: A-Basin will host a two-day festival surrounding the finish, with concerts, food tents and more

Live TV coverage: 2 p.m. on NBC Universal Sports

Stage 2 has become one of the most talked-about routes in this year’s USA Pro Challenge because of two jaw-dropping Category 2 climbs at the start and finish.

Starting out from Steamboat Springs, the route ascends 2,396 feet over a mere 12 miles to the summit of Rabbit Ears Pass. This first King of the Mountain challenge will be a wake-up call for riders still recovering from the difficult Stage 1 circuit race, and leaders will likely separate from the peloton by the top of the pass.

The long haul to Ute Pass

Following this first climb comes a downhill section and flatland sprint to Kremmling. This 37-mile stretch will either see leaders returning to the pack or building their lead.

Just when cyclists start to catch their breath, Stage 2 slaps them back into reality with KOM No. 2: a long, continuous climb up Ute Pass. This second climb will be tamer than the first, with 2,257 vertical feet spread out over 25 miles — more than double the Rabbit Ears ascent — but sets the stage for a staggering 31 miles before the finish line.

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Climb to A-Basin

After a short sprint section through Silverthorne and Dillon, riders enter a final KOM climb that will truly separate the boys from the men: five miles and 1,616 vertical feet between Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. The climb, rated as a Category 2, offers a stunning chase to the finish line in true European Alps fashion. It’s the only summit finish of the race.

A brutal Stage 2

This route will come down to sheer mountain strength, rather than a traditional cycling strategy that will be likely make or break winners in other stages. With a whopping three KOM’s, the riders who excel at climbing will likely maintain the lead during the flat sprint sections to battle for the win.

However, the difficult final climb to A-Basin could be devastating for many, so don’t be surprised to see a few lead changes and surprising bursts in this final pass. Watch for strong climbers like Julian Arredondo, Janier Acevedo and Davide Formolo to excel in this stage. Formolo won a very difficult mountain stage at this year’s Tour of Italy, and Arredondo was the 2014 Tour of Italy KOM overall champ. The lesser-known Acevedo could surprise — he placed fifth in 2014 Pro Challenge KOM standings.

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