The inaugural Pro Cycling Challenge wasn't easy, and version 2012 takes "difficult" to a new level.
"Our subthemes this year are, there are no days off and you can't hide," Pro Cycling Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter said.
There will be nowhere to hide from Day 1 on Monday, Aug. 20: a challenging stage takes riders from Durango to Telluride. The day begins with a 5-mile loop around downtown Durango and climbs up Lizard Head Pass before heading into a sprint finish in Telluride.
On Day 2, a very familiar site from the 2011 route when riders finished atop Mount Crested Butte.
"Last year this is where the race became the race," says Hunter. "If you remember there was a breakaway and Levi (Leipheimer) put it down on the Schleck's (Andy and Frank) and Cadel (Evans) and took the yellow jersey. It was really exciting, not only on site with big crowds, but great for the TV audience at home."
Stage two's 65-mile day begins in downtown Montrose and climbs over the Cerro and Blue Mesa summits before cruising through Gunnison and heading towards the Butte.
Stage 3 of the 2012 Pro Cycling Challenge is almost an exact replica of last year's "Queen Stage." The pros ride from Gunnison to Aspen over two of the highest points of the race. It was a big deal with monstrous crowds last year.
"It put us on a world stage last year, (it was the) first time world wide that we went over 12,000 feet twice. Cottonwood (Pass), including 12 miles of dirt road, and then Independence (Pass) and then incredibly fast finish into Aspen. We saw George Hincapie win that stage."
After riders spend the night Aspen following Stage 3, they will climb out of the only start/finish city on this year's route via Independence. Stage 4 features a sprint through Leadville, followed by Tennessee Pass, Vail and eventually into Beaver Creek for another mountain top finish.
"Most of the competition (in Stage 4) takes place above 9,000 feet, sometimes 10,000," says Hunter. "We'll go through historic Leadville, there will be a sprint line there, and then our second of three uphill finishes in Beaver Creek. It's a short and intense climb into Beaver Creek, so we could yet again see another jersey change."
Last year Levi Leipheimer held the yellow jersey for most of the week. This year, organizers are aiming to mix that up including in Stage 5, which favors the sprinters from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs.
"It (Stage 5) will be one of the fastest days," explains Hunter. "It will be a big wake up call with Hoosier Pass right away. So these guys are going to go over 11,500 feet immediately and it's a fast race on the high plains into Colorado Springs."
Stages 6 & 7 will have the Front Range buzzing, especially Stage 6 From Golden to Boulder.
9:20:11-18 "My personal prediction is this is the biggest crowd of any of the seven days, in fact, I think it will be one of the biggest crowds in the history of our sport and our country," says Hunter.
Fans will have multiple opportunities to see riders in Boulder during Stage 6 and the same holds true for the final day in Denver. Unlike other bike races, Stage 7 is no gentlemen's ride, it's a time trial.
"Very few races in the world do a time trial on the final day," remarks Hunter. "It's really set up for drama on site and drama on TV at home."
Get ready for drama, multiplied by seven, on two wheels this August.
For the full route announcement visit: www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)