Now, most of us at the newspaper are about as knowledgeable regarding cycling as we are about the finer points of electricity, but we've managed to cobble together a primer for our fellow newbies who have been watching the stages over the previous few days and wondering what the hell was going on.
Competitive cycling is governed by a Switzerland-based organization called the Union Cycliste Internationale. (Because nothing says "Let's go for a ride" like the Swiss Alps.) Similar to most sports, there are different levels. At the top is the UCI World Tour, which includes races like the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. Next come the UCI Continental Circuits, which include our own USA Pro Challenge.
Last year, the Challenge (which bypassed the Springs for the first time since it started in 2011) was one of just two U.S. races that involved multiple top-level teams, called UCI ProTeams. This year, of the 18 ProTeams worldwide, five of them will be racing in the Pikes Peak region on Thursday and Friday: BMC Racing Team (USA), Team Garmin-Sharp (USA), Trek Factory Racing (USA), Cannondale Pro Cycling (ITA) and Tinkoff-Saxo (RUS). The other 11 teams in the Pro Challenge are combinations of differently grouped racers, who are not required to participate in races the same way ProTeams are.
For Stage 4, teams will start at The Broadmoor before launching into a "circuit" (see "Where to watch") that'll bring the day's distance to 70 miles. The next morning, they'll head out from Woodland Park to Breckenridge in Stage 5.