USA Pro Challenge Stage 4 preview: Aspen to Breckenridge (video)
Special to the Daily
USA Pro Challenge Stage 4 — Aspen to Breckenridge
Start: 10:20 a.m.
Finish: 3:45 p.m.
What to watch: Independence Pass, Hoosier Pass and Moonstone Road
Who to watch: Guillaume Boivin, James Oram and Damiano Caruso
2014 Stage 4 winner: Elia Viviani
Fun fact: Riders will pass through Alma, the highest incorporated municipality in the U.S.
TV coverage: 2 p.m. on NBC Universal Sports (not provided by Comcast in Summit)
The fourth stage in the 2015 USA Pro Challenge is rightly considered the Queen Stage, thanks to sheer intensity from start to finish. Beginning in Aspen, riders travel a total of 126 miles — the longest in the race — while crossing over three mountain passes for a total of 9,731 of vertical feet.
Like Stage 2, riders face their first King of the Mountain challenge straight out the gate, with a 4,187-foot climb to Independence Pass during the first 19 miles. Luckily for cyclists, this is the hardest climb of the day, so, in relative terms, it all gets easier until the finish line in Breckenridge nearly 105 miles away.
A confident start doesn’t guarantee a top-10 finish, though. This was proven in the 2013 Pro Challenge, when a trio of three riders pulled more than four minutes ahead of the peloton at Independence Pass but lost the lead soon after hitting the flatter portions below.
Buena Vista to Fairplay
Between Buena Vista and Fairplay, riders will keep a merciless pace over 38 miles as the terrain gradually rises from 7,965 feet to 9,953 feet. In 2013, this sprint section was very exciting, with a number of lead changes and pulls that helped about 15 riders emerge as contenders in the final stretch.
Even though the climbs into Breckenridge are lower and shorter than the first climb of the day, the final portion will likely become the figurative “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for many riders.
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Hoosier Pass to Moonstone
After an arduous climb over Hoosier Pass (11,542 feet), cyclists get a short downhill, which paves the way for the grand finale: Moonstone Road. Moonstone is a short, extremely steep hill that can be an absolute killer late in the stage. Even the 2013 winner of the Aspen-to-Breck stage, Mathias Frank, admitted to feeling dead after this 500-foot climb. For those who make it over the wall, a screaming 2-mile chase to the finish line at Main Street in Breckenridge awaits.
Catch the action
The Aspen-to-Breck stage has always been a fan favorite because of its difficulty and a wide variety of viewing locales. Like Stage 3, anywhere on Independence Pass is a great spot to watch riders grind up the first KOM climb.
If looking for a place to hang out and spend a day soaking up the race atmosphere, Alma might be your best bet. For viewing purposes, the funky little town is at the apex of the race, situated between the final sprint from Fairplay and grueling climb up Hoosier Pass. In addition, Alma boasts plentiful camping locations and plenty of dining options with a small-town vibe.
Closer to the finish, the descent from Moonstone Road into downtown Breckenridge will be a sight to see, as riders maneuver narrow streets and hairpin turns at breakneck speeds. Anywhere along Boreas Pass Road on the east side of town is a great spot to set up for the day.
Due to the combination of climbing and sprinting, Stage 4 will be anyone’s for the taking, but look for strong all-around riders like Guillaume Boivin, James Oram and Damiano Caruso to excel. Like the finish into Steamboat Springs and Arapahoe Basin, expect the rider who masters the final few miles to come away with the win.
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