06 March 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 3 route

Vail Time Trial 

1:00 PM Start,  3:45 PM Finish 
Official route of Stage 3  
Video of route (select video tab): Video of Stage 3 route
Distance: 10.06 miles
USAPCC - Stage 3 Spectator Guide.pdf
11 USAPCC Stage 3.pdf
11 USAPCC Stage 3 Profile.pdf
Stage 3 Timetable.pdf 

***Adding the last miles on the usual bike route only road up Vail Pass will be super exciting for cycling fans. The road is gradually grueling on a bike, although it does not appear steep to the eye, it is at altitude and will challenge even the best. This will be THE SCENE for race fans. The riders will be passing by for hours of entertainment in the Individual Time Trial.

Official Route Map Stage 3 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Stage 3 ITT profile map

Vail, Colorado will host the Individual Time Trial of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (formerly called the Quiznos Pro Challenge) on August 25, 2011. The first thing to mention about Vail, is that the Vail Valley is not very large. Vail valley is only 10 miles long, with a total area of 4.5 square miles (11.8 km²). Vail is limited in size by the surrounding mountains and the busy I-70 interstate highway running down it's middle. Vail is primarily a ski village that shines brightest in the winter cloaked in snow under blue skies. The skiing is fantastic.

The area is very limited in cycling variety. When it comes to cycling in the Vail area, your choices are east or west along the frontage road, mostly on the south side of the freeway, or east up Vail Pass (10,554ft), or west down to Eagle County. On either end of the valley, cyclists must enter narrow two-way bike paths. Cars must return to the Interstate highway. Even though a cyclist may ride all the way up Vail Pass or down river to Eagle County, a support vehicle cannot follow the rider over Vail Pass.

The Individual Time Trial on Stage 3 will finish on the road (not usually open to car traffic), before the bike path crosses back to the west side of I-70 and heads up the the actual pass.
The frontage road in Vail, CO
The side road on Vail Pass begins here - no car passage
The side road was the old road over Vail Pass, now used by cyclists
Images of Vail Valley:
Image of Vail Valley looking west
The length of the Vail Valley looking east
The second thing to mention is Vail is typically quiet in August. Not particularly attractive in the summer, except for areas of town near the river (and the beautiful alpine botanic garden!). Vail is mainly a ski town and would feel a bit abandoned in the summer if not for the remaining locals. Vail has large condominium complexes, with concrete restaurant areas in cute Swiss themes, strip mall type shopping areas, and limited vistas. Although Vail presents a great apres ski atmosphere, sections of town might feel deserted in August. The highway is the main structural feature of the town, and since the town was built in 1966, it is well known the 1970's was not a period of stunning architecture in America.

Still it will be a nice place to visit on race day. There are a number of high priced homes in the area (median home price $694,250), a golf course, and hiking. The city has done considerable remodeling in the past 3 years trying to create a more cohesive community feel to the area; refacing some buildings, constructing even larger condominiums, and reworking the old ski villages.

The third thing to mention is that the Time Trial is on a Thursday, in August. Usually the organizers of a stage race prefer to schedule a time trial on a day closer to a weekend when more spectators can attend. Vail is already relatively quiet in August. August is the time of year between the flow of summer tourists, and the changing of the fall foliage, a time when tourists pass through the area to see the changing aspen leaves. Most of the locals have returned to town by August and schools will be back in session, but ski resort personnel will not have arrived. The population of Vail is 4,617 people. What I am saying is, there won't be that many people at the time trial on Thursday - so GO! This could prove to be a very fun day in the mountains.  

Because the route of the Individual Time Trial finishes up the climb to Vail Pass, this is a day worth taking a vacation day for. If you are a fan either walk or ride your bike up toward the finish. I am hoping it will have the atmosphere of Alpe d'Huez. (Bring your chalk, costumes, hats, flags and friends and be ready to have some fun!).

As a fan of the Grand and smaller tours, I can say that a time trial day is one of my favorite. There is so much to see, and for hours. I like to watch the riders warm-up before the race. The Prologue and the Time Trial days are the only time you will see the riders out warming up before the stage. The other days, they will simply sign-in and start riding. 

After the day in Vail for the time trial, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (Quiznos Pro Challenge) race then moves north to Steamboat Springs on Friday, only to return back to nearby Summit County on Saturday afternoon. If you plan to chase the race, you'll need to move accommodations, only to return to the next county over a day later. I might dare to recommend arriving for the time trial, staying in Vail or Summit County, riding the Copper Triangle route (see map below) on Friday, and then catching the finish in Breckenridge (great atmosphere) on Saturday. I do encourage giving the towns that host the race your financial support, but the organizers of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (Quiznos Pro Challenge) designed the race route oddly. 

If you do decide transfer to Steamboat Springs, you can see the finish one day and the start the next morning. I wouldn't plan on being able to see the start in Avon and the finish in Steamboat, or the start in Avon and the finish in Breckenridge in the same day due to road closures and traffic. The traffic into Breckenridge on Hwy 9 can be very slow. Steamboat has a fun cowboy atmosphere and is ranch/ski town. Plenty of accommodations.
Fabian Cancellara  Photo by: PedalDancer.com
Thursday, August 25th: Stage 3 — Vail  (Individual Time Trial)
Stage 3 will be centered around the town of Vail, Colorado.

Route Details:
This is the Vail, a 10-mile long valley
Race Facts:

This course was last used in the Coors Classic in 1988. When I first rode the route I could read the old names remaining on the road, you can still see some names today. You will not be able to drive within 3 miles of the finish, so bike or walk, Bring food and water and a jacket. They will have shuttle buses to the base of the climb for fans. Expect large crazy fans on the climb up Vail Pass, arrive early. First rider will begin in Vail central at 1:00pm, riders are space 60 seconds apart, the last 10 riders will be 2 minutes apart. Team arrive at 11:30 in town. There are bike weigh-ins but no sign-ins at Time Trials. Remember that what goes up must come down, both riders and cyclists have to get back down the path/pass. The organizers say you may have time to get back down to Vail for the podium awards. No paint on the road, only chalk. 

Fans: Expect an experience similar to the Prologue Stage with the added beauty of the mountain setting, with limited access, movement and parking. Read my fan tips and description of the Prologue Stage here at: USA Pro Cycling Challenge (Quiznos Pro Challenge) Prologue route

Cycling Fans

*** The road up to Vail pass will be closed to any non-tour vehicles, it is a false-flat at altitude course and cyclists should definitely ride up to the last miles to watch the race!


Option A) Ride into Vail over Vail Pass. Mileage from Frisco to Vail is approximately 27 miles one-way. The ride is easy from Frisco to Vail, but a steep climb back from Vail to Frisco. Option B) Ride from the town of Edwards 14.5 miles west, or from Avon 10 miles west. These towns are relatively flat, slight uphill in the eastern direction. Option C) If you are staying in Vail, at least ride up over Vail Pass to Copper Mountain and then return back to town or descend to see the ITT on the Pass road, it is a 42 mile loop. Don't expect much to be open in Copper Village Ski Area in August.

Recommended Ride in the area - Copper Triangle (!)

For any cyclist coming to this area with a road bike, there is a fantastic 82-mile loop ride in this area from Vail, it is called the Copper Triangle. The route can be viewed on an earlier post of mine at Copper Triangle Bike Route. You will need to combine road and bike path riding to complete the loop, but it is worth it. This is one of my favorite bicycle rides in all of Colorado! The scenery and challenge is just perfect. Another good bike ride in the area is from Frisco or the (ski) village of Keystone up Loveland Pass and back. Or another is from Frisco to Vail and back (on the bike path). 

Route of the Copper Triangle recommended ride
Information on Cycling Vail Pass can be found at this link:

Vail Pass on CyclePass.com
The bike path over Vail Pass, the race will not be on this section

Parking is a bit limited in the central town area of Vail, there are large multiple-level parking complexes, parking along the frontage road might be restricted to allow for the actual race route. Vail is a 126-mile drive west of Denver, CO. Vail is a 105-mile drive from Aspen, CO, the location of the previous day's Stage 2 route from Gunnison to Aspen. (click image to enlarge this map)

Map of Vail and some of the towns of Quiznos Pro Challenge
About the area:

The town of Vail was established in 1966 at the base of Vail Ski Resort to support the ski area which opened in December 1962. The town is famous for having the second largest single ski mountain in North America (after Whistler Blackcomb). Local summer activities include golfing, mountain biking and hiking. Winter activities include skiing, nordic skiing, ice-climbing, and 10th mountain division hut trips. The town of Vail has a total area of 4.5 square miles (11.8 km²), with no lakes (there is one pond and some man-made water features). Gore Creek flows from east to west through the center of town. Vail mountain cams

The surrounding mountains are beautiful:
Gore Creek flows through Vail, CO
Hiking near Vail

Accommodations may be found in Vail, or in the nearby towns of Avon, Edwards, Copper Mountain, Frisco, Dillon, Silverthorne, or Breckenridge. Visitors will find hotels, restaurants, art shops, and coffee shops in all of these towns. Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, has free admission, donations welcom (183 Gore Creek Drive, 970-476-0103, bettyfordalpinegardens.org). Avon has a new 350-foot Whitewater Park off of Avon Rd, bring or watch the kayakers in the river. 

Cycling rides in the area:

Copper Triangle mentioned above, or the reverse triangle. Or ride up Battle Mountain Pass outside of Minturn, turn around and come back and enjoy a cool drink in Minturn before returning to Vail or Avon.

And even more on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge website