2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge Begins Today

The 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge is set to get underway this morning in Durango, Colorado, where 126 of the world’s best cyclists will hit the road for the first stage of the race. The event, which is in its second year, will cover 683 miles (1099 kilometers) over the next seven days, finishing on Sunday, August 26, in Denver.

The event, which is being billed as “America’s Race,” features a field of riders that is deep and talented. Amongst them is defending champ Levi Leipheimer, who is still recovering from a broken leg he suffered in April. He’ll be joined on the course by 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali and Americans George Hincapie and Tejay Van Garderen – a rising star in the sport.

One of the hallmarks of last year’s Pro Cycling Challenge was the high altitude and this year will be no different. While European races feature plenty of tough climbing, those events aren’t at such a consistently high altitude. Much of the Pro Cycling Challenge takes place above 10,000 feet (3048 meters) and riders will have to endure more than 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) of total vertical gain over the course of the week.

Today’s first stage is 125.6 miles (202.1 kilometers) in length and runs from Durngo to Telluride. It features a tough climb up to Lizard Head Pass before a 15-mile (24.1-kilometer) blistering descent to the finish line. The following days will feature similar action, including more tough climbs that end with summit-top finishes and an individual time trial on the final day.

Cycling fans can follow the event live on the race’s website and the Radioshack Tour Tracker mobile app.