Avenue again on route as international cycling race returns to Springs

       Anticipating a doubling of crowds that were estimated at 100,000 for last August's Prologue event, USA Pro Cycling Challenge organizers have slated Colorado Springs for the Stage 5 finish next year in the second annual race.

Danny Summerhill makes the turn from Ridge Road onto Pikes Peak Avenue during the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Prologue Aug. 22.
Westside Pioneer photo

       It will be a downhill stage, about 120 miles, with riders starting Aug. 24, in Breckenridge. Area cycling leader Chris Carmichael, who helped bring the Prologue to the Springs, said this week that racers will come down Ute Pass, then follow the avenue through Manitou Springs and the Westside to the finish line downtown.
       “This is something that will really highlight the community on the Front Range,” he said. “I think it [200,000 attendees] is totally realistic.”
       Like this year's event, the 2012 Challenge will have seven stages in all. Others will be: Stage 1 (Aug. 20), Durango to Telluride; Stage 2 (Aug. 21), Montrose to Crested Butte; Stage 3 (Aug. 22), Gunnison to Aspen; Stage 4 (Aug. 23), Aspen to Beaver Creek; Stage 6 (Aug. 25), Golden to Boulder; and Stage 7 (Aug. 26), Denver - a time trial that could determine the final winner.
       “We're really excited to have Colorado Springs as a finish city, especially toward the end of the [overall] race,” said Carmichael, who also owns Carmichael Training Systems in the Westside's Roundhouse commercial center. “It is a really good message about how our community embraced the event in its first year.”
       In the Prologue, riders took off one at a time on a 5.2-mile time trial that went from the Garden of the Gods and eastward through the Westside, taking the avenue from 30th Street en route to a downtown finish.
       In the Stage 5 event, all the riders (last year it was about 130) will leave Breckenridge at the same time. Based on typical bike racing strategies, one or more lead packs will break out at some point, with riders jockeying for position and the overall race leader making sure to stay in contact. Carmichael said it is likely that the stage winner will still be unknown even as the racers emerge from Ute Pass. “We're not going to know the winner until right at the end.”
       Because it is mostly downhill from Breckenridge, riders who are known to be sprinters should do well in this stage. “They'll be flying,” Carmichael said. Most of the rest of the Challenge will be uphill rides, so a downhill segment like Stage 5 “gives good balance to the race.” Even the Tour de France isn't all in the Pyrenees,“ he elaborated.
       Carmichael said his belief in doubled crowd numbers stems from the enthusiasm with which Colorado Springs “embraced the event” in the first stage of its first year. “It was the inaugural race, so nobody was really knowing what they were going to get,” he said adding that the Colorado Springs response “set the tone for the race” and the communities in the ensuing stages followed suit.
       Carmichael said he also is encouraged by what he described as city government's willingness to expand its “in-kind” contributions to the event in 2012. “Mayor [Steve] Bach called me personally a few weeks after the race last August, and said 'I really want it back; let us know.' That's good news.”
       Colorado Springs is one of 12 “host cities” in the 2012 event. According to a press release from Paul Kellogg of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, close to 40 cities had applied for the opportunity. “A number of criteria were taken into consideration when evaluating potential host cities, including full city services support,” he writes. “The race also considered commitments in the areas of lodging, volunteer recruitment, marketing and local tourism, as well as an ability to host world-class athletes and promote the state of Colorado.”
       The exact routes for each stage - including the location of Colorado Springs' downtown finish line - and other details will be worked out in the coming weeks and “announced in the spring,” Kellogg's release states.
       The Stage 5 planning will be led by a local organizing committee. Carmichael chaired that committee by himself for the Prologue, but said he will have co-chairs this year in Meredith Vaughn of the Vladimir Jones publicity agency and Peter Scoville, a prominent commercial realtor in the area.
       Also helping out again in 2012 will be the nonprofit Pikes Peak Cycling Society, Carmichael said.

Westside Pioneer article