The route for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge professional cycling stage race will take riders on a heart-pounding journey through the breathtaking Colorado Rockies. After making history in the inaugural year by traveling to the highest elevation of any race in North America or Europe – higher than the most challenging route on the Tour de France – this year’s race will take the riders to an altitude of 12,000 ft. not one, but three separate times and will include a finish on iconic Flagstaff Mountain on the penultimate day. A highly anticipated event on the race calendar, the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge will test the riders’ strength and endurance.
The race will visit 12 official host cities for the starts and finishes of each stage, with varying sizes ranging from towns as small as 250 residents, to cities as large as Denver with a population of more than 600,000. The four new cities joining the 2012 race – Durango, Telluride, Montrose and Boulder – each offer breathtaking scenery, as well as a unique cycling history, that will add to the overall excitement of the race.
With 9 mountain passes, 42,000 feet of combined elevation gain over 7 days, and 683 miles of total racing, the 2012 USA Pro Challenge race route will again demonstrate that THE MOUNTAIN CHANGES EVERYTHING.
Starting the 2012 USA Pro Challenge with a road race instead of 2011’s Prologue means the competition is wide open starting on the first day. Often an opening road stage can be tame, but this is anything but, with challenges coming nearly right away. Starting with a 5 mile loop that encompasses most of town, and the Tour’s first Sprint Line of 2012, the riders head up hill and out of town past Fort Lewis College and toward Telluride. After a second Sprint Line in the town of Dolores, racers will start a gradual canyon climb that lasts more than 30 miles, eventually taking them up and over Lizard Head Pass at 10,222 feet. After the climbers’ first test of the week they take a 15 mile descent into the narrow streets of Telluride to finish stage one and the first 125 miles of the race.
Download: Stage 1 Route Map
Download: Stage 1 Profile
One of the shortest stages of the week, a mix of old and new awaits the racers on this second stage of 99 miles. The first 65 miles has a bit of a sting with the short but challenging climbs over Cerro Summit and Blue Mesa Summit making for early launch pads for the breakaway specialists. Then the cyclists visit familiar territory with a Sprint Line in Gunnison, a second Sprint Line in Crested Butte, and a nasty 2 mile climb to the dramatic finish on Mt. Crested Butte, which proved an exciting moment in 2011. After heading gradually uphill most of the day, cyclists and their fans will witness all the excitement of a huge alpine climb packed into 4 minutes, with the promising roar of the Crested Butte crowd at the finish.
Download: Stage 2 Route Map
Download: Stage 2 Profile
One of the toughest days of racing in the US returns this year – the epic Gunnison to Aspen stage will again feature two of the highest climbs in professional racing. The 131-mile Queen Stage is the longest stage of the entire week, but after last year, the cyclists will know what to expect. After a sprint line in Almont and a moderate climb to Taylor Park Reservoir, cyclists will say goodbye to pavement for 14 miles of dirt climb to the 12,126-foot summit of Cottonwood Pass. While this is the highest point of the entire week, cyclists are not done yet, with a sprint line in Buena Vista followed by another monster 12,000 foot summit on the famed Independence Pass before a wild descent into Aspen.
Download: Stage 3 Route Map
Download: Stage 3 Profile
It’s not often that you start with a monster climb, but that’s what the cyclists will find at the beginning of Stage 4 when they head back over Independence Pass for a second time, getting a second look at the thousands of enthusiastic fans lining the road up and down. Then elevation is the name of the game, with much of this 97-mile course above 9000 feet. But it’s downhill from there heading for a sprint in the town of Leadville – the highest incorporated city in the US at 10,152 feet. Then they head over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass (10,424’) before descending into Minturn. Finally, the peloton will be faced by a stiff two and a half mile climb that rises almost 1000 feet to the ski resort of Beaver Creek, a difficult finish that could result in the fourth leader change in as many days.
Download: Stage 4 Route Map
Download: Stage 4 Profile
Stage 5 will be a good day for two kinds of riders – sprinters and opportunists. A daunting 10 mile climb up Hoosier Pass to 11,500 feet makes for a rude awakening, but if the sprinters and breakaway specialists can make it over that, they have a good chance to go for a stage win. After the single summit of the day and a fast descent into Fairplay, the high mountains are left behind. Descending into Woodland Park, the racers may hit their fastest speeds of the week at the downhill Sprint Line, then continue downhill to Colorado Springs through the shadow of Pikes Peak. A technical uphill run through Garden of the Gods Park lets the cyclists revisit the roads of last year’s prologue before finishing with high-speed circuits through downtown Colorado Springs.
Download: Stage 5 Route Map
Download: Stage 5 Profile
Stage 6 brings top-level professional racing back to one of the hotbeds of American cycling; there likely isn’t an American in the peloton who hasn’t trained on these roads. After two laps in downtown cycling-crazed Golden, which hosted one of the race’s largest crowds during the 2011 race, the field will head toward Boulder and through the first sprint line of the day near the Pearl Street Mall and the race’s expo area. Next comes the arduous 15 mile climb up Boulder Canyon to the town of Nederland, then the cyclists travel along the gorgeous Peak to Peak Highway, descending to another sprint line in Lyons, and on to the well-known climb up Left Hand Canyon and Lee Hill Road. Nedfest in Nederland and the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons happening simultaneously on this day will make for a festive atmosphere in each of these enthusiastic towns. A quick passage back through downtown begins the gradual climb through “The Hill” neighborhood. From here the riders make a final 3.5 mile climb to the historic Sunrise Amphitheater on Flagstaff Mountain. This well-known stretch and its 1200’ elevation gain should be the deciding factor in the day’s racing – and possibly the whole week’s competition.
Download: Stage 6 Route Map
Download: Stage 6 Profile
After a week of tough racing over mountains at altitude, this flat and fast time trial course in downtown Denver will have those looking to win the overall competition facing a tough individual test.
Using many of the same roads as the final Denver finish circuits of 2011, the course will provide a challenge for the riders and fantastic viewing opportunities for race fans. Starting at one minute intervals near the State Capitol Building in Denver’s Civic Center Park, the riders will first face a familiar out and back section along Speer Boulevard and Colfax Avenue – with a slight detour through the entertainment district along Larimer Street. Then the individual riders will turn north to 17th Avenue for a short but technical run in City Park before racing back to the finish line on Broadway, adjacent to Civic Center Park.
Download: Stage 7 Route Map
Download: Stage 7 Profile