The USA Pro Cycling Challenge, possibly the most cumbersome name in pro cycling, returns to Colorado next week. The race winds 518 miles starting in Durango this year and ends in a time trial around Capital Hill in Denver. The race won’t come through Estes Park this year, but it gets close.
For stage six of the race, on Saturday, Aug. 25, what remains of the starting 135 riders meander 103.3 miles from the start in Golden into Boulder, up Boulder Canyon to Nederland, then north on Hwy. 72 to nearly Allenspark, where the peloton turns east on Hwy. 7 down to Lyons. The race then heads back to Boulder with a quick, steep detour up Lefthand Canyon and down Lee Hill Drive, before the challenging climb to the finish on Flagstaff Mountain.
If you want to watch in the traditional European way, have breakfast in Allenspark then wander down Hwy. 7 to the junction with Hwy. 72. Bring a picnic and relax. The earliest the race officials expect to get to that turn is 1:35 p.m. Keep your camera ready. The whole pack should whir past in about 10 minutes. After that, you can hang out and enjoy the afternoon, head back into Allenspark, chase the race down to Lyons, or if you feel particularly adventurous, try to get to the finish above Boulder before the race ends. This last option is what I’m going to try.
Plenty of American riders plan to make the start, including defending champion, Levi Leipheimer, this year riding for Omega Pharma-Quickstep. US National Champion Timmy Duggen will again ride for the Italian team Liquigas, along with long-time friend Ted King. The Tour de France’s best young rider, Tejay van Garderen will ride along side Boulder native Taylor Phinney, both riding for BMC Racing. The real marquee rider this year, however, will be BMC’s George Hincapie, who will be riding his final professional race.
Big George, as he is known, has an amazing resume. The 39-year-old Farmingdale, N.Y., native turned pro in 1994. He has finished the punishing Paris-Roubaix on 17 occasions. He has finished 15 consecutive Tours de France, a record. He is the only American ever to win the Ghent-Wevelgem and has ushered three different winners in nine Tours, also a record. All of this is impressive, but there’s more.
Big George is possibly the most respected American in pro cycling at the moment, not for his wins, though he has been US National Champ on three different occasions, not because he bends anyone to his will. George might be the nicest guy on two wheels.
George has an easy smile and will talk to anyone. He sacrifices for his team leader and he helps young rider negotiate the challenges of being a pro cyclist. This year he will, again turn himself inside-out for former Tour champ Cadel Evens, while helping build and hone the skills of van Garderen and Phinney. For seven days, he will ride through Colorado for his professional swan song.
If you have time next week and want to see a true professional, get to one of the stages to watch George ride by. Better yet, head down to Denver on Sunday, August 26, to see the finale and the after party. George’s team, BMC will hold a fundraiser party that evening with the likes of former pros Bob Roll, Ron Kiefle and legendary sprinter Davis Phinney from the 7-Eleven team. The event is called “Living the Ride” and features Team BMC director Jim Ochowicz, who also fouded and ran the 7-Eveven team. A silent auction at the event benefits the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. Tickets and more information can be found at CyclingSoul.com
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.