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USA Pro Challenge Starts Today

One of Colorado's top summer events kicked off today in Aspen. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is a weeklong bike race comprised of seven stages in total, each covering a different part of Colorado. Riders come from across the globe to test their speed and endurance in Colorado's version of the Tour de France.

Stage 1 started today with a 61 mile course. Riders completed 3 loops, launching from downtown Aspen, heading west to Snowmass, then north to McLain Flats before returning back to Aspen. Check out a map of Stage 1 here.

Wondering what comes next? 

USA Pro Cycle ChallengeStage 2 begins tomorrow, covering the 105 mile route between Aspen and the ski resort destination of Crested Butte, located southwest of Aspen. During Stage 2, riders will reach a top elevation of 9,980 feet as they cross over Kebler Pass. That's over 2000 feet above their starting elevation in Aspen. Stage 2 is scheduled to begin at 11:10am and cyclists are expected to arrive in Crested Butte around 3:45pm.

Stage 3 starts in Gunnison, south of Crested Butte. Riders will travel 96 miles east to Monarch Mountain, including crossing Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet in elevation. After looping through the town of Salida and returning back up to Monarch, the competitors will climb over 7000 feet in total elevation over the course of the day.

Stage 4 takes the race to the Front Range with a loop through Colorado Springs. This 70 mile stage begins at the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club, looping through the Garden of the Gods northwest of the city before ending downtown. Racers will pass the finish line four times before completing the stage on their 5th loop.

Pro Challenge Colorado Cycling RaceStage 5 begins in Woodland Park, 20 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, and heads back into the mountains to the resort town of Breckenridge, offering riders increasingly higher elevations as they get closer to their destination. Hoosier Pass provides the highest elevation of the 104 mile ride at 11,539 feet before the racers drop down to town where they complete a final short loop that reaches 10,087 feet before heading back to Breckenridge at 9,600 feet.

Stage 6 takes the race to renowned Vail, Colorado for a 10 mile sprint. While the distance is short, the ride is grueling. Starting in town at 8,150 feet, the route heads straight up Vail Pass, ending at 9,663 feet, averaging over 150 feet per mile of riding. While the start of the stage provides a gentle grade, the cyclists will encounter muscle-crushing steepness during the second half of the ride.

USA Pro Challenge ColoradoStage 7 wraps up the race with a return to the Front Range. The stage begins in Boulder, located in northern Colorado, and heads southeast to finish in the capitol city of Denver. While most of the route takes place at lower elevations than the riders will have encountered on earlier stages, the 2000 foot climb up Lookout Mountain adds difficulty before the cruise back down to Denver.

Want to follow the action?

There's no better way to experience this exciting race than to pick a point along the route to watch the racers fly by. Consider setting up a couple of lawn chairs at the top of one of the mountain passes to watch as riders crest the summit and begin the descent. Or choose a spot halfway down to watch as the cyclists fly by at breath-taking speeds. Many fans choose to camp beside the road to guarantee a great view.

Pro Cycling Challenge in ColoradoAnother great way to enjoy the thrill of the race is to watch from the finish line and cheer for the riders as they complete one of the seven stages. Stick around after the race is finished to watch the leader take the podium.

Can't make it to the race in person? The race website offers options for watching streaming video and downloading apps for mobile devices. 

And if you truly want to experience the USA Pro Challenge in all its glory, consider planning a multiday bike trip through Colorado where you can take on each section of the race for yourself. 

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