by Jeff Koch
When it comes to cycling in the Springs, there's perhaps no more important figure than former U.S. Olympic racer, current personal trainer and Springs resident Chris Carmichael.
Back in 1984, Carmichael competed in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and was part of the first American cycling team to compete in the Tour de France two years later. He also famously coached Lance Armstrong to seven Tour de France victories. Today, he operates Carmichael Training Systems.
The Indy reached out via email to the prolific local, who's helped the Springs earn two consecutive spots on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge schedule, to ask him what the event means to the city and the sport.
"The USAPCC is a very big deal," Carmichael says. There are only three races in the country that can attract the best-of-the-best from the other hemisphere, he figures, and our Challenge is one of them, alongside the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour of Utah. "Many Tour de France riders will have the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on their calendars for August."
The Tour de France, considered by most to be the ultimate challenge of cycling, is a "grand tour" that's currently entering its third and final week. While the Challenge runs only seven days, the altitude sets it apart.
"The highest summits the riders cross in the Tour de France are at about 9,000 feet in elevation. Some of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge stages start at 9,000 feet, and the riders will climb to more than 12,000 feet," making it an exceptionally taxing race, says Carmichael.
And while last year locals got to see the prologue of the first-ever Challenge, we're treated again this year as the destination for the stage on Aug. 24: The riders will actually rifle through downtown three times before they're done. "Of all the stages in the 2012 race, Colorado Springs is the only stage with a circuit finish," Carmichael says, "which allows fans to see more of the racing."
——- ORIGINAL POST, THURSDAY, 2:50 P.M. ——-
With only five-plus weeks until kickoff, it's time for a reminder — and some good news.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the biggest bike race on U.S. soil, will return to Colorado from Aug. 20 to 26 — passing through Woodland Park, Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs on Friday, Aug. 24. You may remember that last year's challenge boasted the entire Tour de France Top 3, for the first time ever in the States. This year, luminaries including 2011 Pro Cycling champ Levi Leipheimer and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans have signed on again.
The French event is going on now, followed by the Summer Olympics in London. After that, these titans of two-wheeled transport will descend on the Rocky Mountains for the third huge rally in the span of a month, and some of the toughest terrain they'll ever face.
Snaking from Durango to Denver over seven grueling days, the riders will do battle with nine mountain passes over single-day stretches as long as 130 miles, and with elevation changes nearing 4,000 vertical feet.
Day 5, however, finds the riders tackling a rare mostly downhill stage from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs via the route familiar to many powder-hounds: Colorado Highway 9 to U.S. Highway 24. They'll then race through Garden of the Gods before finishing with some dramatic circuits downtown, both prime spots for spectators. According to the Stage 5 profile on the event's official website, though, the fastest speeds of the race will happen as riders come flying down the hill into Woodland Park.
Viewing the event is free — just find a spot along the road and watch 'em go. VIP passes, however, will get you into special seats and autograph lines, plus behind-the-scenes access and even food. They'll run you anywhere from $75 to $500 per ticket, depending on location and amenities available.
For you serious bike enthusiasts, the entire release from USA Pro Cycling Challenge can be found after the jump.
Sixteen World-Class Professional Teams and Top Cyclists Confirmed to Participate in 2012 USA Pro Challenge
2011 Champion Levi Leipheimer and 2011 Tour de France Winner Cadel Evans Welcomed Back for the 2012 Seven-Day Professional Cycling Race
Denver (July 11, 2012) — Taking place August 20-26, 2012, on the heels of the Tour de France and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, the 2012 USA Pro Challenge will feature 16 of the world’s best professional cycling teams. Comprised of UCI Pro, Pro Continental and Continental teams, the race will include some of the top talent in the sport, including Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer. After featuring an impressive lineup of teams and riders for the inaugural race in 2011, including the full Tour de France podium for the first time in the history of a U.S. race, the 2012 edition will host a similarly competitive field.
“After the 2011 USA Pro Challenge, we had such an overwhelmingly positive response from the teams that it was difficult to narrow it down to 16 teams for the 2012 edition,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge. “The USA Pro Challenge is building a reputation for having the highest caliber teams in the world, creating fierce competition in the Colorado Rockies. I can’t wait to see what these teams have in store for us this August.”
Last year, the race featured some of the best athletes in the sport and 2012 will be no different. After taking first place in the 2011 USA Pro Challenge and the Tour de Suisse, Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep will be returning to the seven-day stage race to defend his title. 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (AUS) of BMC Racing Team also will be competing in the race, as well as his teammate and last year’s fifth place finisher George Hincapie (USA). A former three-time national road champion who is currently participating in a record 17th Tour de France, Hincapie will cap off his professional cycling career with the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.
Additionally, Colorado resident Tim Duggan (USA) of Liquigas-Cannondale, who just recently took first in the National Road Race Championships and will be competing in the London Olympics, has committed to participate as well. RadioShack-Nissan-Trek riders Frank Schleck (LUX), third overall in the 2011 Tour de France; Chris Horner (USA), who took first last year in the Amgen Tour of California; and fan-favorite Jens Voigt (GER) who came in sixth overall in last year’s Paris—Nice will be competing, as well as the Slovenia National Time Trial Champion Janez Brajkovic (SLO) from Astana Pro Team. The full team rosters will be announced closer to the race.
“After winning the Tour de France last year and seeing the enthusiasm of the fans, I didn’t think anything could match it, but then I came to Colorado. Seeing the huge crowds that were along the route supporting us at the USA Pro Challenge was remarkable and really motivated us to do our best,” said Evans. “The course and the mountains were beautiful, but incredibly challenging, and I can’t wait to take them on again. I knew last August that I wanted to return to the race in 2012.”
Following is the complete list of teams that will be competing in the 2012 USA Pro Challenge:
Astana Pro Team (KAZ)
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Omega Pharma-QuickStep (BEL)
UCI Professional Continental Teams
Champion System Pro Cycling Team (CHN)
Team SpiderTech powered by C10 (CAN)
Team Type 1-SANOFI (USA)
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team (USA)
UCI Continental Teams
Bissell Pro Cycling (USA)
Bontrager Livestrong Team (USA)
Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA)
Team Exergy (USA)
With six new teams added to the lineup for the 2012 race, returning for a second year are Bissell Pro Cycling, BMC Racing Team, EPM-UNE, Liquigas-Cannondale, Team Exergy, Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda (formerly Team Garmin-Cervelo), RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, Team SpiderTech powered by C10, Team Type 1-SANOFI and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.
More information on each team can be found on the USA Pro Challenge website at http://www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com/teams.
About the USA Pro Challenge
For seven consecutive days, the world’s top athletes race through the majestic Colorado Rockies, reaching higher altitudes than they’ve ever had to endure as they ascend over three mountain passes, each exceeding 12,000 ft. in elevation. After attracting more than 1 million spectators in 2011, making it one of the largest cycling events in U.S. history, the USA Pro Challenge is back for 2012. Featuring a challenging, 683-mile course with more than 42,000 ft. of vertical climbing, the second annual race will spotlight the best of the best in professional cycling and some of America’s most beautiful scenery.
Referred to as “America’s Race,” the USA Pro Challenge will take place August 20-26, 2012, a week proclaimed by Governor John Hickenlooper as “Colorado Cycling Holiday,” and travel through 12 host cities from Durango to Denver. More information can be found online at www.USAProCyclingChallenge.com and on Twitter at @USAProChallenge.