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.

2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge route announced

Organizers of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge have announced the dates and route for the 2012 edition of the race, which will once again take place in Colorado. This year, the state played host to the inaugural event, which saw some of the world’s top cyclists competing on a course that involved plenty of climbing and altitude.

The 2012 version of the Pro Cycling Challenge will get underway on August 20th from Durango and will continue through the 26th, when riders finish up with a time trial through the streets of Denver. In between, they’ll visit Telluride, Aspen, Beaver Creek, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and a host of other mountain towns. The route will cover more than 520 miles and will feature climbs over five different mountain passes in excess of 10,000 feet in height.

This year’s race was a resounding success, bringing in more than one million spectators and generating an estimated $83.5 million in revenue for the state of Colorado. The week-long, stage race was won by American Levi Leipheimer, but also managed to attract some of the best riders in the world, including Frank Schleck, Robert Gesink, and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.

American cycling fans should be ecstatic that this event has been so well received and is returning for another year. Colorado is a fantastic place to hold a pro-level cycling competition, as the scenic mountain passes bring drama and excitement to every day of the race. This year’s course was billed as the highest altitude cycling competition ever, and it appears that the 2012 edition is poised to up the ante even further.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge begins tomorrow

The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge gets underway tomorrow in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where 128 of the best riders in the world are preparing to take on one of the toughest courses ever created. The route features long climbs, harrowing descents, hairpin turns, and more altitude than any other pro-cycling event in history.

The first day of the competition features a short five mile prologue that will set the stage for things to come later in the week. Then on Tuesday, the race really gets going with a 100-mile long ride between Salida and Crested Butte that will serve as a warm up for Stage 2, which features more than 9700 feet of climbing. Stage 3 is a time trial through the streets of Vail, while Stages 4 and 5 return to the road for two more challenging days, before the teams have a relatively easy finish on their ride into Denver on Sunday.

The Peloton will be filled with big names, including Australian Cadel Evans, who won the Tour de France last month, and brothers Andy and Frank Schleck, who both stood on the Podium in Paris as well. In all, the race features five former world champions and eight stage winners from the Tour.

To get an idea of what the riders are in for, check out the video below. The race will be televised on NBC and Versus, and if you’re in Colorado, there will be plenty of chances to see it live as well.

[Photo Credit: AP File Photo]