Officials unveil route for brand-new Women’s USA Pro Challenge | PostIndependent.com

Officials unveil route for brand-new Women’s USA Pro Challenge

Phil Lindeman
plindeman@summitdaily.com
Boulder-based professional cyclist Mara Abbott joins a roster of women from 10 international teams for the inaugural Women's USA Pro Challenge. On June 25 officials announced the three-stage course, beginning with the Breckenridge time trial.
Zach Mahone / Special to the Free Press |

2015 USA Pro Challenge stages

Stages for the inaugural Women’s USA Pro Challenge were announced on June 25, and, for the first time since 1988, top-level men and women will race on the exact same routes. It promises to be lung burner.

Men’s stages

Aug. 17 — Stage 1: Steamboat Springs circuit race (49 miles)

Aug. 18 — Stage 2: Steamboat Springs to Arapahoe Basin (103 miles)

Aug. 19 — Stage 3: Copper Mountain Resort to Aspen (101 miles)

Aug. 20 — Stage 4: Aspen to Breckenridge (126 miles)

Aug. 21 — Stage 5: Breckenridge individual time trial (8.5 miles)

Aug. 22 — Stage 6: Loveland to Fort Collins (102 miles)

Aug. 23 — Stage 7: Golden to Denver (68 miles)

Women’s stages

Aug. 21 — Stage 1: Breckenridge individual time trial (8.5 miles)

Aug. 22 — Stage 2: Loveland to Fort Collins (58 miles)

Aug. 23 — Stage 3: Golden circuit (1.5-mile course)

For complete information on each of the race stages, including spectator and lodging information, see www.prochallenge.com.

Christian Vande Velde and Levi Leipheimer have had their moment in the Colorado sun. Now, it’s time for Kristin Anderson and Mara Abbott.

On June 25, officials with the USA Pro Challenge announced routes for the inaugural women’s race. The world’s top female cyclists, including pros like Olympic medalist Anderson and Boulder resident Abbott, will take on three stages in the final days of the seven-day race.

And, it gets started in Summit County with the Breckenridge time trial.

“That first-ever women’s stage in Breckenridge will be magical,” says Shawn Hunter, CEO for the USA Pro Challenge. “This is bringing some of the best athletes in the world to Colorado and Summit County, and they’ll be sharing the same course and the same crowds with the men. It will be a world-class way to launch this endeavor.”

Not only are they sharing the same course, they’re competing for an equally hefty prize purse. It’s an unusual approach for high-level cycling, Hunter says, but organizers wanted to give women the exact same treatment as men, albeit during a shorter overall race.

“It’s very rare to have the same course, on the same day, for the same prize money,” says Hunter, who notes that organizers have wanted to include a women’s race since the first Pro Challenge in 2011. “It’s always been our goal to have a big women’s division and we waited to launch that until we could do it right. We want to walk before we run, and we think this is a good start.”

In a year of firsts — first women’s race, first Breck time trial, first dual yellow jerseys — the Pro Challenge is reviving a long-gone Colorado tradition: For the first time since the Coors Classic in 1988, pro male and female cyclists will ride the same roads at the same time in an international cycling event. Ten teams are already confirmed for the first race, including Colorado Women’s Cycling Project and UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team.

“The goal in developing the route for this first Women’s USA Pro Challenge was to create a challenging and diverse course using the incredible terrain that Colorado offers,” said Sean Petty, race director for the women’s Pro Challenge. “We wanted to honor the legacy of women’s stage racing in Colorado.”

After leaving Breckenridge, the women travel with the men to Loveland for a 58-mile ride. Stage 2 of the women’s race is nearly 50 miles shorter than Stage 6 of the men’s, but pros — like two-time Olympic gold medalist Anderson — are simply ready to give the world a show.

“Having the women’s peloton become part of the 2015 USA Pro Challenge is an amazing platform for our sport,” said Kristin Armstrong, professional cyclist for Team TWENTY16 p/b Sho-Air. “Women’s cycling is truly moving in the right direction, and we’re grateful for the opportunity. I’m excited to make this event part of my preparation for the World Championships.”

While the Breckenridge time trial is a highlight for Summit locals, the women’s Stage 3 is worth making a trip to the Front Range.

It begins in Golden, just like the men’s Stage 7, but rather than make a 68-mile trip to Denver over Lookout Mountain, the females literally go shoulder-to-shoulder on a 1.5-mile circuit through the town.

The top cyclist comes away with the inaugural yellow jersey.

“I’m really excited about the details on our courses,” said Boulder resident Mara Abbott, who rides for Team Wiggle Honda. “All of the communities have bent over backwards to be able to put on a good show for the first year of this race, and I’m so honored that they are showing how much they care about women’s cycling and giving us this opportunity. August can’t come soon enough.”

Stage 1: Breckenridge individual time trial, Aug. 21

The 8.5-mile time trial starts out flat, then it’s on to a climb up the steep grades of Moonstone Road for a test of climbing skills. After searing their lungs, cyclists could win or lose the race on the technical Boreas Pass descent.

Expect Olympic time-trial champion Anderson to put on a show before heading to the Golden circuit.

Stage 2: Loveland to Ft. Collins, Aug. 22

A gentle rollout through Loveland gives women time to settle in before things turn extremely competitive. Just west of Loveland, they’ll hit 20 miles of climbing as everyone tests their legs on the climb of Buckhorn Canyon.

But, if the climbers want to win this day, they will need to hold off the field as the stage descends Rist Canyon and 18 miles back into Fort Collins. Expect climbers and sprinters to trade places right until the end.

Stage 3: Golden Circuit, Aug. 23

After testing their time-trial legs and climbing legs, it’s now time for women to test their grit in traffic. The final stage is no promenade or flat, four-corner coronation for the current leader.

With hills, technical corners and time bonuses up for grabs on the tight, 1.5-mile circuit, the overall title is up for grabs from the start.


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