So you want to go to the Tour de France, but don’t have the vacation time for a multiple-week excursion or the money for a round-trip ticket?
Despite all three of the major Grand Tours taking place in Europe, you can still find top-notch bike racing – and the accompanying fan experience – in the U.S. Here are five of America’s biggest road cycling races.
Silver City Tour of the Gila Powered by SRAM (April 30 – May 4, 2014)
The five-day Tour of the Gila is a bit different than most of these events, because it gives amateur riders the opportunity to race themselves (albeit not with the pros). The race features not only some of the beautiful scenery New Mexico is known for, but also winds its way through ghost towns and steep mountain passes. You won’t see any of the famous European teams represented here, but the domestic pros – including UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s Philip Deignan, who won the overall earlier this year – can definitely put on a show.
Amgen Tour of California (May 2014)
Probably America’s most similar race to the Tour de France, the eight-day tour features the world’s top pro teams and travels through the mountains and countryside of the Sunshine State. There’s enough variety of terrain that virtually anyone can ride and feel like a pro racer for a day or two. For $1,000 and up, fans can pay to ride in the team car or get a bird’s-eye view of the finish and behind-the-scenes access to riders.U.S. Pro Road and Time Trial Championships (late May 2014)
Typically held Memorial Day weekend, this race features some of the country’s best male and female cyclists battling for the honor of wearing the stars-and-stripes jersey for the year. The road course around Chattanooga, Tenn., prominently features the 2,000-foot Lookout Mountain climb – difficult, but doable for most amateur riders.
Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah (Aug. 6-11)
The Tour of Utah bills itself as “America’s Toughest Stage Race,” featuring 43,000 vertical feet of climbing over 586 miles. If you don’t like riding up mountains, this probably isn’t the tour for you – this year’s one-day amateur race was 112 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing. Of America’s three top multi-day stage races, this event attracts the least amount of attention, so you can expect the same amount of excitement as the Tour, but with smaller crowds.
U.S. Pro Challenge (Aug. 19-25)
This seven-day stage race features both the world’s top cycling teams and scenery. While there are several stages to test your climbing legs, riders who prefer fast, flat routes won’t be disappointed. Bike racing is a huge deal in Colorado, so expect a massive turnout of fans to cheer on the pros and the amateur riders pre-riding the course.