World’s top cyclists set to roll through Westside Aug. 22

      

Tom Danielson of Boulder, one of the leading American cyclists in the Challenge, is a member of the Garmin-Cervelo team.
Courtesy of Tom Danielson.com
As the date nears for Colorado Springs' first major international bicycling event - the Prologue time trial Monday, Aug. 22, kicking off the statewide, seven-day USA Pro Cycling Challenge - its details are starting to wheel into focus.
       Featuring the three top placers in this year's Tour de France, 15 national champions and two Olympic medalists, the event is expected to attract thousands of spectators and have a profound impact on Westside traffic from about 11 a.m. to to 5 p.m. (See story, back page).
       Basic info: the Prologue race is scheduled from 1:15 to about 4:30 p.m., with riders leaving one at a time from the Garden of the Gods starting point. The race will be against the clock along a mostly downhill 5.2 mile course through the Westside to the downtown finish line. The racer with the best time will wear the leader's yellow jersey for Stage 1 the next day at Salida and Crested Butte.
       Race route: The starting point for the 5.2-mile course will be at Gateway Road and Juniper Way Loop, just east of the Kissing Camels and Gateway Rock formations. Racers will go south (uphill) on the loop - normally it's one-way in the opposite direction - and then continue onto Ridge Road. Going downhill on Ridge after leaving the Garden of the Gods, racers will take the sharp left at Pikes Peak Avenue and continue east to 30th Street for a quick right and left to get onto Colorado Avenue.

Brothers Andy (left) and Frank Schleck, who finished second and third, respectively, in this year's Tour de France, are members of the Leopard Trek team, which is 1 of 17 entered in the Colorado race.
Courtesy of Redkiteprayer.com

       They will stay on the avenue the rest of the way to the finish line at Cascade Avenue.
       If you go: There is no charge to watch the race. The biggest crowds are anticipated at the start and finish lines, but parking may be hard to find near any part of the course. For those wishing to be at the starting line, parking is available in the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site lot off Gateway Road and 30th Street. The surest way to get to a favored vantage point may be by walking or (perhaps appropriately) riding a bicycle. If you want to see tight turns being navigated, the only places for that will be at Ridge and at 30th. If high speeds are your wish, you may want to stand along Colorado Avenue, where racers on that slightly downhill stretch could achieve speeds of close to 50 mph, according to event spokesperson Christina Brodsly.
       How the race will be run: For the first 100-some riders, each will start a minute apart. For the last 20 riders, each will start two minutes apart. Teams will save their top riders for last, Challenge technical director Randy Shafer said, to add to the drama as well as to let them get course information from teammates or support people. Time-split information should be available at different parts of the Prologue course, he said. How long to reach the finish line? Based on pre-Prologue analyses by Pro Cycling, a racer averaging 30 mph for the 5.2-mile course would come in at 10 minutes, 22 seconds.
       The competition: It was confirmed this week that there will be 17 teams with 136 riders in all - “one of the best fields ever assembled on American soil for a professional cycling race,” according to a Cycling Challenge press release. The top three from the Tour de France are Cadel Evans and brothers Frank and Andy Schleck. Evans is also a past world championship winner, along with Michael Mørkøv, Peter Velits, Danny Pate and Ivan Basso. Other big names are Christian Vande Velde and Robert Gesink. Three top-rated Americans are Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie.
       The overall Challenge event: Covering 518 miles in all, the race will move into the Rockies after the Colorado Springs Prologue, taking in different towns or cities each day and (at close to 11,000 feet in elevation) cycling at “higher altitudes than they've ever had to endure,” a press release states. By contrast, the highest elevation in the Tour de France was 6,200 feet, according to Brodsly. After Colorado Springs, the itinerary calls for Salida and Crested Butte in Stage 1 Aug. 23, Gunnison and Aspen in Stage 2 Aug. 24, Vail in Stage 3 Aug. 25, Avon and Steamboat Springs in Stage 4 Aug. 26, Steamboat and Breckenridge in Stage 5 Aug. 27 and Golden and Denver in Stage 6 Aug. 28.

Tour de France 2011 winner Cadel Evans leads the pack in a 2008 race.
Courtesy of Annick Vanderscholden

       TV coverage: For the Prologue, the Versus network (which is in the process of being renamed “NBC Sports”) will stream live coverage without commercials or interviews on its website from the start of the Prologue. A pre-show on Versus (Channel 56 on Comcast) will begin at 1:30 p.m., with live coverage beginning at 2 p.m. and continuing through the race and the post-race ceremony. afterwards. Versus or NBC (channel 5 on Comcast) will also broadcast the other days of the race.
       Race background: Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is credited with the idea. He talked it up with influential government and business folks, then others started handling the details, and lo and behold, Colorado has its first major cycling event since the Coors Classic of 1980-88.
       What kinds of bicycles do the racers use? “A bike can cost $5,000 to $15,000, depending upon its customization,” Brodsly explained in an e-mail. “While manufacturers sell stock bikes that look like the ones the athletes use, the big stars can get very custom treatment. The time trial bikes like the ones that will be used for the Prologue can be quite expensive, utilizing the most aerodynamic of equipment in the frames, handlebars and wheels. Riders developing their time trial abilities often spend time in wind tunnels studying air flow of not only their bike but their body and position. These test results prove invaluable as big races can be won or lost by seconds from the efforts in a time trial.” She added that there are limits to the customization. “Bikes are heavily regulated by the International Cycling Union, the world governing body for cycling. There are minimum and maximum widths of equipment, dimensions of saddles and wheel base. Even the handlebar reach is regulated, especially for time trial positions... The international governing body wants bikes to remain recognizable to day-to-day users not only in equipment appearance but in user position as well. The idea is to keep the competition about the riders, not so much the technology. A time trial is still about technology meshing with the rider to create the spectacular performances we will see at the Prologue.”

Westside Pioneer article