20 February 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 2 route

Gunnison to Aspen

Wednesday, August 24th: Stage 2 — Gunnison to Aspen 
Official route of Stage 2
 9:45 AM Start, 3:00-4:15 PM Finish
Video of route (select video tab):  Stage 2 route video
Distance: 131.1 miles
USAPCC - Stage 2 Spectator Guide.pdf
11 USAPCC Stage 2.pdf
11 USAPCC Stage 2 Profile.pdf
Stage 2 Timetable.pdf

Cottonwood Pass closed: August 23 at 3:00 pm until August 24 at 1:00 pm.
Independence Pass eastbound closed: August 24 11:00-4:00pm.
Independence Pass westbound closed: August 24 11:00-2:00pm.

Official Route Map Stage 2 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Stage 2 route profile

The active hard working people at Bicycle Colorado have provided good news about camping for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. They bring the fans good news that roadside "European Tour Camping" will be allowed for this event. Please read more on the Bicycle Colorado website at: Camping for USA Pro Cycling Challenge Fans on race route, European-style Race Spectating comes to Colorado. 

Gunnison: The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is coming to Colorado, August 22-28, 2011.
the town of Gunnison has a lot planned for the community and fans, including a special for Kids on bikes to be able to race off the official start line at 10:15 a.m.  The Queen Stage Downtown Expo kicks off in downtown Gunnison at 8 a.m. Read more about the town plans for the community USA Pro Challenge in Crested Butte and Gunnison.

Stage 2 (day 3)
Gunnison, CO - Start of Stage 2 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Downtown Gunnison
Area near Gunnison
Stage 2 will start in Gunnison, Colorado, (a town just south of the previous day's finish in Crested Butte, CO). The stage will finish in Aspen, Colorado. The route features 2 major climbs: Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass. The route of the second stage will head north out of Gunnison over rolling terrain, turning northeast up a beautiful green valley ravine along a river and lake (reservoir), before heading east over the climb of Cottonwood Pass. Much of Cottonwood Pass is a pressed gravel dirt road. Although unpaved, the road is suitable for climbing on a road bike (trickier to descend).

West side of Cottonwood Pass
Cottonwood Pass road
Once at the summit of Cottonwood Pass, the east side of the road is paved. The winding descent off the summit quickly becomes a long fast nearly straight descent into the town of Buena Vista, CO.

Buena Vista, CO
The riders will then turn 90 degrees left traveling on the main highway north before turning left again toward Twin Lakes, where the long steady beautiful climb over Independence Pass begins.

Twin Lakes
Independence Pass
Independence Pass east side
The descent down Independence Pass is fast and technical into the finish area of the posh high adventure town of Aspen, Colorado.
Independence Pass west side
Aspen, CO - Finish of Stage 2 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Downtown Aspen
Route Details:
The route is approximately 131.1 miles over mixed terrain including the gravel road over Cottonwood Pass (climb begins at mile 36, summit at mile 48 or 49), elevation 12,126 feet (3696 m).  Approximately 12 miles of 3-6% grade before Cottonwood Pass summit. Independence Pass (summit at mile 109-110), elevation 12,095 feet (3687 m). The majority of the climb of the east ascent of Independence Pass is 2-3% grade with maybe 2 miles of 6% and then 5% grade just before the summit of Independence Pass. Both mountain pass descents have -5 and -6% grades. Total elevation gain for the route is 8,757 ft.

Race Facts:
Rider sign- in begins at 9:00 in Gunnison. There will be a sprint in Almont, and a sprint in Buena Vista. Two KOM on Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass. You will be able to see the start in Gunnison and a sprint in Buena Vista. You will not be able to see both KOM by car or bike. Independence Pass will be closed to vehicles starting at noon on both side. Use only chalk on the roads, no paint. Do not drive from Crested Butte to Aspen via Pearl Pass, this is a $WD dirst road with high river crossings. There is a womens criterium in the town of Aspen before the finish.

The best race viewing options will be at the start area (possibly near the town park or College) in Gunnison, picnicking along the route near the river on CO Road 742 outside of Almont, or at Taylor Park Reservoir. Also anywhere along the climb of Cottonwood Pass, or watching the peloton quickly pass through the town of Buena Vista, or anywhere on the climb of Independence Pass, or at the finish in the picturesque town of Aspen. Aspen is a town with plentiful cafes and bars to await the finish. 

Mileage between towns on Stage 2:
Gunnison to Cottonwood Pass: 36.0 miles
Cottonwood Pass to Buena Vista: 32.2 miles
Buena Vista to Independence Pass: 42.8 miles
Independence Pass to Aspen: 19.8 miles

What time will the pros arrive on Cottonwood Pass?

Mileage between towns on Stage 2:
Gunnison to Cottonwood Pass: 36.0 miles
Cottonwood Pass to Buena Vista: 32.2 miles
Buena Vista to Independence Pass: 42.8 miles
Independence Pass to Aspen: 19.8 miles

What time will the pros arrive on Cottonwood Pass?
Gunnison to Cottonwood Pass: 36.0 miles - pros might arrive at 11:30-12:30 pm
Cottonwood Pass to Buena Vista: 32.2 miles -
pros might arrive at 12:30-1:30 pm
What time will the pros arrive on Independence Pass?
Buena Vista to Independence Pass: 42.8 miles - pros might arrive at 2:45-3:30 pm
Independence Pass to Aspen: 19.8 miles - pros might arrive at 3:00-4:15 pm


Option A) If you are based near Crested Butte or Gunnison, riders with a sag support, can ride over Cottonwood Pass (spectating the race at the summit) and then descend into Buena Vista to meet their sag support vehicle in town (sag support should drive via Monarch Pass). Enjoy a drink or meal and by then the road to Aspen should have less traffic. Option B) If you will be based in the town of Aspen, definitely climb up the west side of Independence Pass to watch the riders come over the summit before the finish back in town. Option C) If you are based in Buena Vista, you can ride the long east side (22 miles) climb to Independence Pass. If you have a bicycle, the best experience is always riding part of the route, and spectating on the mountain passes. A strong second is having a picnic alongside the road and cheering on the amateurs as they climb by.

Mountain Pass Road Closures Stage 2:
Cottonwood Pass closed: August 23 at 3:00 pm until August 24 at 1:00 pm.
Independence Pass eastbound closed: August 24 11:000 or 12-4:00pm.
Independence Pass westbound closed: August 24 11:00 or 12-2:00pm.

Any cyclists trying to climb up Independence Pass after the race should be aware of the car, foot, and bicycle traffic descending back down the road toward you. 
When riding in Colorado, safely estimate 14-16mph, as your average ride time to allow for stops, regrouping, picture taking, weather, finding water (no domestiques) and food (no feed zones for you). Add in our famous altitude as an explanation for slower climbing speeds, and you realize why in it geographically and physiologically improbable to do it all - start and finish.  
For those claiming they will ride the entire 131.1 route of Stage 2 on race day, 100 miles in Colorado is a big deal, the Triple Bypass is 120 miles of a really big deal. Anyone who has ridden Ride the Rockies or Bicycle Tour of Colorado will tell you, you could be biting off more than you can chew (I am telling you that, and I've done the Lourdes - Tourmalet - Luz Ardiden loop on a day of the Tour de France). This route is perfect for a 2-day ride. Riding hard, stopping for a couple hours and riding hard again - is well, hard.

But if you must, I would suggest heading out very early in the morning, and trying to get as far as you can along the road before they close it for the race. Then ride the remainder after the race passes through. Booking it in Colorado will achieve 18 mph, standard will be 13mph. You have the dirt climb of Cottonwood Pass (slower speeds), and then Independence Pass, which comes at 110 miles into the route of Stage 2. Allow 6 hours at booking it and 9 hrs at standard speed to get to this point, plus more time to gather water and food. Allowing for race and road closures you are looking at a 9-12 hour day. The sun will rise at 6:19am, and set at 7:41pm.

* Cell phone coverage in the mountains of Colorado can be spotty, it may be difficult to contact all members of your group throughout the day. Also fueling yourself at altitude for a 131 mile climb should not be taken lightly by flatlanders, unless you have acclimated and trained well for this type of riding.  
Race organizers estimate it will take the (fully supported) Pros upwards of 5.5 hrs (23-24 mph) to ride Stage 2. The fact that the race begins at 9:45am, and the organizers estimate the finish time into Aspen to be between 3:00 and 4:15pm, means they have no idea how long this route will take the pros to race. I've never before seen an hour and fifteen minute window of estimated arrival before.

Drivers and Cyclist *** Cottonwood Pass Road Closure
There will be no driving on Cottonwood Pass from the Gunnison County side starting at 3 p.m. on Aug. 23 (the night before!) so crews can put the final touches on the gravel road.  Western State College will provide shuttles from Taylor Park on the morning of Aug. 24 to get you as close as possible to the action or plan to ride your bike or hike up from the road closure point.

Gunnison is approximately 34 minutes, by car, south of Crested Butte. There are two options to drive to Aspen the western route through Hotchkiss and Carbondale into Aspen (3hr 45min drive). Or the eastern route back over Monarch Pass to Buena Vista following the race route over Independence Pass and into Aspen (3hrs 15mins). I would recommend selecting and getting to your viewing station in the morning (or the day before on Cottonwood Pass) and either hiking, biking, or eating to pass the time with friends or family.

Also the road on the west side of Independence pass is very narrow, RV campervans are tight passage. Both of these passes are closed in winter. Please be aware that there will definitely be cyclists climbing in the road, fans in the middle of the road drawing with chalk, and children playing. Leave lots of time to drive in a car so you do not feel rushed.

Camping will be allowed please read: Camping and road closures

Time Schedule:
Please read Start and Finish times and maps

About the area:
Gunnison has a population of 5406 residents, elevation 7,703ft.  The continental divide is east of the town, and a number of fourteeners stretch north and south along the mountain range (14,000 ft mountain peaks) offering spectacular local views for drivers and cyclists. Local activities include fly fishing, lake fishing, kayaking, mountain biking and hiking.

The town of Aspen has a population of 6,671, but grows considerably during the winter ski season, and in fall when tourists come to see the changing colors of the aspen trees. The elevation of Aspen, CO is 7,908ft. Aspen is a ski resort town known for high price real estate, and hard driving outdoor athletes. Mountain biking, hiking, golfing, and gold medal fly fishing are very popular during the summer.

Map of the 14,000ft mountain peaks

These are the mountains that lie between Salida, Aspen, and Vail, Colorado, near the Stages of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. There are 53 mountains in Colorado over 14,000 feet in height. Read more about what makes hiking so popular in this state at 14ers.com and Fourteeners.org

Most of the 14ers in Colorado are accessible by foot, a few have roads to the top including Pikes Peak (near Colorado Springs) and Mount Evans (near Idaho Springs).  
Accommodations may be found near the start town of Crested Butte (or Mount Crested Butte, and Gunnison), camping near Taylor Park Reservoir, more hotels along the route in Buena Vista, camping near Twin Lakes, or at the finish town of Aspen, CO. Visitors will find hotels, restaurants, art shops, and coffee shops in the main towns on the route of Gunnison, Buena Vista, and Aspen. Must sees in the area: Maroon Bells near Aspen/Snowmass.

Cycling Routes in the Area: Ohio Pass Road (take Colorado 32 north 5 miles from Gunnison) partial gravel road. Ninemile Hill, west of town toward Blue Mesa and Lake City on Colorado 149. The first part of Stage 2 from Gunnison to Almont and up Taylor Canyon to the reservoir, 65-70 mile round trip.

Similar to the Pyrenees. It can be hot, it can be very windy, it can be cold and stormy on the mountain passes (even in summer), but it is always high altitude and very dry (sunscreen and lots of water are necessary!).

Lots more information on the PedalDancer.com USA Pro Cycling Challenge Page
Or more on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge website
Update 03/01/11: a very hopeful sign: Aspen approves money for Quiznos cycling event