02 July 2014

On the path of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge - Aspen

Visiting Aspen, Colorado

I have an interest this year to experience parts of the routes of the stages of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge. The purpose of these scouting adventures (reci road trips) will be two fold: to better understand the race and to better make tourist suggestions to you. I find it fun to ride the route and then watch the pros do it - better and faster.

We all know the world feels different from the saddle of a bike. Pre riding the route of any stage race is not only fun, it helps to better guess race tactics and who might win a stage. You can feel it, sense it, and guess exactly where the race will blow apart. Then on race day, you wait and watch, knowing what it felt like to be out on that very same road, knowing where it gets hard, where an attack might happen.

I have lived in Colorado for twenty-four years. The USA Pro Challenge conveniently started four years ago. The August stage race is the perfect excuse to be a tourist in my own backyard. Having fun with these reci rides, I am working off of the route maps of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge while adding in additional nearby rides and tourist sights.

Aspen, Colorado
Location of Aspen, Colorado in the western United States
Location of Aspen and Snowmass Village
Cyclists ride through the aspen groves on their way to climb Independence Pass
The magnificence of the Maroon Bells, as seen from a bike, no filter!
Downtown Aspen during the recent annual Food and Wine Classic in Aspen

Two weekends ago I visited Aspen

In 2014, the city of Aspen will again host the stage start, together with the nearby ski town of Snowmass Village. Basically four days of USA Pro Challenge activities will fill the calendar for this mountain valley in August. Press conference, interviews and public appearances will keep the riders busy. Road rides, hikes, good food, and great race viewing will keep the spectators happy.

Arrive early and you will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this mountain town. The Aspen/Snowmass area has plentiful hotels, campsites, restaurants, hikes, fishing spots, mountain bike trails and road bike rides. All this before Stage 1 begins on Monday August 18th.

Last year the pro riders began to arrive three to fourteen days prior tothe race start. The riders could be encountered on training rides throughout the area. To be out on the road with your favorite pros is a thrill (even if you drive and stop and take photos). It is your best chance to really see the competitors other than at the team presentation (which will take place this year on Saturday evening at 6:15pm in lower Snowmass Village, free of charge).

Commentator Paul Sherwen interviews Tejay VanGarderen at the Team Presentation in Snowmass Village in 2013
At the free team presentation Snowmass Village 2013
Tom Danielson races into downtown Aspen.  Photo by Laurie Valaer for Pedal Dancer.


Stage 1 starts off the week of racing on Monday, August 18th. It is a circuit route where you will see riders circle three times on course between Aspen and Snowmass Village.

Stage 2 takes place on Tuesday, August 19th, departing downtown Aspen along the main Highway 82 through Main St Carbondale, Colorado. The riders continue up Highway 133 over McClure Pass. Turning left on CR 12 after Paonia Reservoir, the peloton will take on the dirt road for miles, entering Crested Butte from the west, through town to finish up the short steep climb to Mt Crested Butte (ski resort).


On the route of Stage 1 - 2014 USA Pro Challenge:

STAGE 1 : 65 miles Stage 1 Map PDF  Stage 1 Profile PDF
Monday, Aug. 18 – Aspen Circuit Race
Aspen circuit race. 3 laps of nearly 22-miles each, and 2,300 ft. of climbing per lap.

Race Begins: Approximately 2:40 p.m.
Race Ends: Approximately 5:15 p.m.
State Highways Impacted: SH 82
Weather: expected sun and light rain showers (bring a rain jacket!)

Stage 1 Timetable.pdf

2014 USA Pro Challenge - Stage 1 route map
Aspen Circuit Stage 1 best viewing
Route of Circuits through downtown Aspen, Stage 1 USA Pro Challenge 2014

The climbs on route Stage 1, 2014 USA Pro Challenge:
Profile map of Stage 1 USA Pro Challenge profile map
Map my Ride link to variation on pro route, profile of 1 circuit

Photos along the route of Stage 1

A team training on Owl Creek Rd climb to Snowmass Village in 2013
A key strategic point in the circuit as the riders hit Smith Hill Way toward McClain Flats Rd.
McClain Flats Road


On the route of Stage 2 - 2014 USA Pro Challenge:

STAGE 2 : 105 miles Stage 2 Map PDF  Stage 2 Profile PDF
Tuesday, Aug. 19 – Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte
Aspen to Crested Butte, "the back way," Dirt Road. No Independence Pass for 2014!

In 2012, professional cyclist, Ted King wrote a great post about his training ride over just this route from Aspen to Crested Butte, it is worth a revisit: 1 photo = 1,000 words, right? Ergo, this entry = 23,000 words, By Ted King (Cannondale).

Race Begins: Approximately 11:10 a.m.
Race Ends: Approximately 4:00 p.m.
State Highways Impacted: SH 82, SH 133
Kebler Pass closed in both directions - 11:00am Monday 8/18/14 through 3:00pm Tuesday 8/19/14.
Weather: expected rain and light showers (bring a jacket)

Stage 2 Timetable.pdf

2014 USA Pro Challenge - Stage 2 route map
Profile map of Stage 2 USA Pro Challenge profile map
Route through Carbondale
Route through Crested Butte
Route up Mt Crested Butte to mountain top finish
Photos along the route of Stage 2:

Downtown Main Street Carbondale
The Crystal River leads the way on Stage 2
The funky art, cafe and B&B village of Redstone, on State Highway 133 to McClure Pass. The Crystal Club Cafe in town should be hopping on race day.
Looking back down the beautiful valley floor from the final kilometers up McClure Pass. That is SH 133
Final view to the summit of McClure Pass
1 big climb down, two more to go ....
After McClure Pass the breakaway will take this 180 turn from SH 133 onto CR 12.... then they will hit the dirt road section and Kebler Pass ... then the race will really change. Stage 2 to be continued.

The climbs on the route of Stage 2, 2014 USA Pro Challenge:

  • McClure Pass
  • Kebler Pass
  • Mt Crested Butte

  • McClure Pass: 8866 ft max elev., max grade 9%, moderate, gain 3633ft in 41.98 miles

    McClure Pass profile Map My Ride link
    Kebler Pass: 10,079 ft max elev., max grade 11%, 4475 ft gain in 30.42 miles.
    Kebler Pass Map My Ride link
    Mt Crested Butte: 9,586 ft max elev., max grade 10%, 729 ft in 4.04 miles approximately.
    Mt Crested Butte Map My Ride link


    Recommended Road Bike Rides near Aspen

    If you are going to ride a bike in Aspen, definitely read my recent ride report. Last week I created maps and profiles for six recommended bike rides near the route of Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge. Please see: 6 Recommended Road Bike Rides Near Aspen from my visit in June 2014 

    New road rules for cyclists in Aspen: Council allows bicycists in Aspen to yield at stop signs, The Aspen Times, June 2014. Unlike drivers of cars, trucks and motorcycles, bicyclists in Aspen no longer will be required to come to a halt at stop signs, the Aspen City Council decided in a 4-0 vote.

    USA Pro Challenge Fan Guide

    USA Pro Challenge: More information for this year's race may be found on the Pedal Dancer Guide Page: USA PRO CHALLENGE

    Some of the tourist/fan guide page I wrote last year for Aspen still applies for 2014, read more about being a tourist and recommended restaurants at: USA Pro Challenge in Aspen/Snowmass - Stage 1 and Stage 2


    I like to camp, I have already booked my spot at the usual Difficult Campground for August. I think I got one of the last spots, so don't hesitate to make your campground or hotel reservations for Aspen now, you will have far better availability and price options. There are also some nice campgrounds up the road to Maroon Bells.For those camping, showers are available for $9 at the Aspen Recreation Center. More campsites listed here and shower information.

    CAMPING in ASPEN: The Aspen Ranger District has 8 campgrounds. Only four will accept reservations. They are: Silver Bar, Silver Bell, Silver Queen and Difficult. The remaining campgrounds are first come first served. To reserve a campsite call 1-877-444-6777. Check out time is at 2:00pm. More helpful information about camping, hiking and fishing on the Wildernet website

    HOTELS AND CONDO RENTALS IN ASPEN/SNOWMASS: The race will center around the host cities of Aspen and Snowmass Village. The town of Snowmass is separate and a bit further away. Basalt and Carbondale are close enough to drive in for the day from your hotel, Stage 2 will actually pass right through Main St, Carbondale. Glenwood Springs has tons of cheaper hotels but is a 55-minute drive north. The town of Twin Lakes (east over Independence Pass) is tiny and has a couple of small rustic lodges. Reviews can be read on TripAdvisor and Reservations made through the usual online sites.

    A suggested itinerary for race weekend, August 2014

    If you are planning to attend Stage 1 or 2 in Aspen/Snowmass Village, remember the race begins on Monday. The Team Presentation was free and open to all fans on Saturday night at 6:15pm preceding the race start on Monday. Sunday was an awesome day to get out and ride your own bike and experience riding on the roads with the pros. Plenty of pros and staff could be seen hanging around Snowmass Village (that is where many of the teams stayed and ate and the team mechanics and buses were located).

    Friday, August 15th:

    Peloton Aspen 14 Kick-off Party. Appetizer and cocktails with your favorite pro cyclists, commentators, and other notable sports and entertainment personalities with a live auction. Tickets are $515 each (yes this is a fun raiser). More information at PelotonAspen.com

    Saturday, August 16th: 

    Go for a morning ride to spot teams out training. Have lunch on a patio and then visit the team mechanics in Snowmass Village to ask them all your bike related equipment questions. Definitely attend the Team Presentation at 6:15pm in Snowmass Base Village (you can catch the gondola free from the upper village to the lower village).

    For those interested there will be a VIP reception at the Team Presentation. These VIP tickets allow you to gather is a gated area where all the teams will gather and depart for the stage. More information: 5:30 – 8:30pm VIP Reception – Ricard’s @ Base Village hosted by Viceroy Snowmass $150each. For tickets please contact Wes Graham @ 970-429-2098.

    9:00am - USA Pro Challenge Spotlight Ride, community mtn bike ride, free, Tour Snowmass Mountain, starting at Westin Snowmass Resort Sign Up Here!
    4:00-6:00pm - Tour team parking (mechanics) and Snowmass base village festivities
    6:15-8:30pm - USA Pro Challenge Open Ceremonies (Team Presentation) at Snowmass Base Village, open to the public, free. (highly recommended)

    ASPEN  - Saturday & Sunday, Pre-Race activities
    On the path of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge - Aspen
    Recommended Road Bike Rides Near Aspen
    Aspen Weekend Festival and Activities usaprocyclingchallenge.com/festival 

    It is steep walking up the ski village of Snowmass. Last year Tom Zirble was trying to hitch a ride up while his teammates used sandals after their training ride. There is a gondola which will take you from the lower village to the upper village.
    Cannondale Pro Cycling is greeted by the fans at the Team Presentation in Snowmass Village in 2013

    Sunday, August 17th:

    Another morning bike ride to wave to passing teams. The invitation only Aspen Founders ride is 10:00am this day beginning in downtown Aspen, maybe you could make a point of passing them really fast on the road. Or visit the Maroon Bells (6-9am by car $10, 9am-5pm by shuttle bus only $6 each, free to cyclists all day, more information. The bus to the Maroon Bells runs from 8:30am to 5:00pm, every 20 minutes. The bus runs only from Aspen Highlands Ski Area where you may park your car to catch the shuttle bus up the road.).

    More pro rider spotting on local roads - spot the teams out training on the road to Maroon Bells, and between Aspen and Snowmass Village. (highly recommended)

    Next have a leisurely brunch/lunch and then an afternoon hike, or go to the festival in downtown Aspen (12-5pm). If you are a huge fan and seeking autographs, the official press conference is at 2:00pm at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, a few key riders and race figures will be seen entering and leaving the not-open-to-the-public event. In the evening, enjoy drinks and dinner out at one of the many restaurants, or settle in at your campsite for a campfire and good nights rest.

    9:00am - USA Pro Challenge Spotlight Ride, community road bike ride, free, starting at Limelight Hotel Aspen, Tour to Ashcroft Sign Up Here!
    9:00am-12:00pm Teams training on local roads
    12:00-5:00pm Aspen Finish Line Festival at Paepke Park downtown Aspen
    1:00pm Aspen 82 LIVE- Race Preview Show with Special Guests at the Festival
    2:00pm Official race Press Conference, closed to the public, but streaming online
    3:30pm NBC Sports Phil Liggett & Paul Sherwen- Race Preview & Q&A at the festival
    5:00-7:00pm Aspen Sprint Challenge downtown

    Aspen Weekend Festival and Activities usaprocyclingchallenge.com/festival 
    Weather: expected light rain showers 4pm-8pm 

    The beautiful road up Maroon Creek Rd
    Amateur cyclists and team Saxo saying hello as they pass each other on the road to Snowmass Village
    Watching the teams train pre race.

    Monday, August 18th:

    Grab a morning breakfast and watch the riders roll to the sign-in stage in Aspen. Or ride out on course to one of the climbs. There will be Stage 1 action all along the route between Aspen and Snowmass Village, 3 circuits (pay attention to road closures times).

    2:40pm Race Start, Race Finish at 5:15pm. Podium presentation 30-minutes after the stage finish.

    After the stage, remain in town for the start of Stage 2 tomorrow, or drive to Crested Butte to see the finish of Stage 2 up Mt Crested Butte.

    12:00-5:00pm - VIP tickets: buy start/finish tent $350 each

    12:00-5:00pm - Fan Club Meeting (Trek Travel for Jens Voigt Fans) Stage 1: Aspen Circuit Race
    When: Monday, August 18, 2014, Where: El Rincon, 411 East Main Street, Aspen, CO 81612
    Price: $50 per person, order tickets

    Weather: expected rain and light rain showers 11am-8pm 

    Spectators and Riders anticipating the start of Stage 1 in 2013
    Richie Porte and Chris Froome stop to sign autographs before Stage 1 in Aspen in 2013

    Tuesday, August 19: 

     One last chance to see the riders in town, or head to colorful Carbondale Main Street to see the riders pass on the way to McClure Pass. The last 2km to the top of McClure Pass will be a good place to watch the peloton climb on their way to Kebler Pass and Crested Butte.

    11:10am Race Start, Race Finish at 4:00pm.

    Team cars line up for the stage start in Aspen
    The Village Smithy, in Carbondale, should be very busy on race day.

    Wednesday August 13th and Wednesday, August 20th:

    The Snowmass Rodeo (only Wednesday nights) http://www.snowmassrodeo.org

    Travel impact and road closures for the 2014 USA Pro Challenge

    Road closure schedule State Highways for Stage 1 and  Stage 2  in Aspen - Snowmass Village - Carbondale- Redstone - McClure Pass - Peonia - Kebler Pass - Crested Butte - Mt Crested Butte. CDOT Colorado Department of Transportation advisory: USA Pro Challenge Road Closures 2014 Stage 1 and Stage 2.

    Kebler Pass closed in both directions - 11:00am Monday 8/18/14 through 3:00pm Tuesday 8/19/14.


    I hope you will be able to get out and ride some of the route yourself, Aspen has magnificent outdoor beauty .. and moose! Also black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mountain lions, lynx, elk, mule dear, and marmot. But you will find that out for yourself.

    All photos and maps in the post created by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

    Aspen -Snowmass Stage 1 commemorative jersey

    Aspen - Crested Butte Stage 2 commemorative jersey