DENVER, CO (BRAIN) — The 2014 edition of the USA Pro Challenge stage race will feature its first mountain top finish — at Monarch Mountain, a ski resort west of Salida, Colo., in the center of the state.
On Monday the organizers of the race — considered the second most prestigious stage race in the U.S. after the Amgen Tour of California — announced the start and finish host cities for the first six stages. They are letting fans vote to help choose the seventh stage's route from among four choices in the Denver area.
"The host cities selected for the 2014 USA Pro Challenge will really highlight the majestic beauty of Colorado to our worldwide audience," said Rick Schaden, owner of the USA Pro Challenge. "These cities are valued partners who help us continue to raise the bar for professional cycling in America."
The host cities and stages of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge include:
- Stage 1: Monday, Aug. 18 – Aspen Circuit Race
- Stage 2: Tuesday, Aug. 19 – Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte
- Stage 3: Wednesday, Aug. 20 – Gunnison to Monarch Mountain (mountaintop finish)
- Stage 4: Thursday, Aug. 21 – Colorado Springs Circuit Race
- Stage 5: Friday, Aug. 22 – Woodland Park to Breckenridge
- Stage 6: Saturday, Aug. 23 – Vail Individual Time Trial
As for the final stage, fans can log on to prochallenge.com/PickStage7 and give their opinion on four options. The options are: a Denver circuit race similar to the final stage of the 2013 race; a start in Golden and finish in Denver; a start in Boulder and finish in Denver; or a start in Boulder and finish in Golden.
Unless the organization decides on the Boulder start option, the 2014 edition will largely stay away from the areas of Colorado most affected by September's floods. Communities north of Boulder recently decided not to bid on hosting the race, saying they needed to focus on rebuilding roads first. Some Boulder officials have urged the city to bid for a start, but not a finish or a circuit, for the same reason.
While the race has included uphill finishes in the past, and has passed over Monarch Pass mid-stage in previous editions, the planned finish at Monarch is the most difficult final climb in the race's history. The top of the pass on Highway 50 is 11,312 feet above sea level.