Bicycle Colorado

Best ways to enjoy the USA Pro Challenge

USA Pro Challenge Flagstaff Stage

The speed. The crowds. The colorful racing kits. The Colorado scenery. On their own these things are great; together they are Colorado’s premier road cycling event, the USA Pro Challenge.

I feel fortunate to have seen at least one stage of the USA Pro Challenge in person each year since the first race in 2011. Coming from a competitive cycling background, I probably get more excited about this race than the average person, but I’ve also seen that you don’t have to be a racing enthusiast to enjoy this fantastic event.

If you haven’t seen a stage in person yet, I’d encourage you to go. Here are a few tips to help optimize your race viewing experience:

Where to watch

This year’s Pro Challenge passes through Aspen, Crested Butte, Breckenridge, Gunnison, Vail, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Denver and other beautiful Colorado towns. My advice—study the route and pick your favorite finishing town or climb. This is where most of the action can be found.

Map Courtesy of USA Pro Challenge
Map Courtesy of USA Pro Challenge

Climbs—At bike races, climbs are a popular choice for spectators. They offer race drama and the peloton usually gets spread out. Upsides: more bang for your viewing buck, party atmosphere; Downsides: difficult to leave quickly after the race has passed

Finishing towns—Finishing towns at the USA Pro Challenge have a lot to offer. You can cruise around the expo, pick up some free stuff, fuel up on food and enjoy a cold beverage all in one location. Upside: the finishing expos are fun to experience and are great for socializing; Downside: you may not see as much of the race as you would watching it on TV

Secluded spots—Other spots to watch are along flatter sections of the race and less popular climbs. Upside: you might end up on TV (have your “Hi, Mom” sign ready!); Downside: the race will pass by very quickly

USA Pro Challenge Tour Tracker—You can watch the race on the Tour Tracker app on the side of the road until the race reaches your location. This combines the perspective you get from watching a race on TV with the in-person experience. Just don’t get too sucked into your phone to enjoy the enthusiasm and excitement of race spectating!

Things to bring

Do not run in front of me!
Do not run in front of me!

Suggested items to bring to the USA Pro Challenge:

  • Phone—Take photos, call your friends, tweet, post and stream Tour Tracker
  • Rain jacket—For that unpredictable Colorado weather
  • Cowbell—Some people can’t stand cowbells, but I view them as a fun part of the atmosphere of competitive cycling. Plus, if you have scrawny cyclist arms like me, waving a cowbell can offer much needed upper body exercise.
  • Costume—I have seen some fun and ridiculous outfits at the USA Pro Challenge. If it’s your thing, dress up. I do recommend something that breathes well and potentially incorporates a hat.
  • Bike—Study the route and see if you can catch the race from a few spots, or ride to the finish area and park your bike at the race expo.
  • Non-cycling shoes—If you ride to the race, you will appreciate having a pair of non-cycling shoes to muck around in. Related side note: Running alongside the riders during the race can be exhilarating, but it can also be disruptive to the racing and potentially disrespectful to the racers.

The lasting effect

I hear from many of our members and others that The Red Zinger and Coors Classic, predecessors to the USA Pro Challenge, were their first introduction to bicycle racing. For some, they inspired a life-long pursuit of bicycle riding. I believe the USA Pro Challenge is having a similar effect on the next generation of Colorado bicyclists.

Getting more people riding bikes and building enthusiasm around bicycling are key components of Bicycle Colorado’s mission. That is why Bicycle Colorado has been involved with the race since its inception.
Since 2011, we’ve hosted legislators to allow them to see first hand how popular the race is and how much economic impact it has on our state. We’ve also offered bicycle rodeos to help kids learn bike handling skills, cultivating the next generation of cyclists and race fans. This year, we are also helping with bicycle parking at each finishing town to make it easier and more fun to ride your bike to the race.

Big crowds in Colorado towns!
Big crowds in Colorado towns!

Whether you just like a good community event or you live and breath bicycle racing, the USA Pro Challenge offers a little something for everyone. Check out this year’s race, August 18 through 24.

Bicycle Colorado

About the Author: Bicycle Colorado

Bicycle Colorado is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Denver. We use advocacy, education and passion to make Colorado one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the nation. We encourage and promote bicycling, increase safety, improve conditions and provide a voice for people who ride bicycles in Colorado. With the support of our members and numerous partnerships across the public and private sector, we’ve made significant strides in improving bicycling since 1992.

COMMENTS (5)

jeff - Reply

enjoy

    Mark Erickson - Reply

    Thanks Jeff!

Deborah Maresca - Reply

Woodland Park is hosting the start of Stage 5. We are very excited to host a great VIP party and Bike the Night following the Pro Challenge activities. Come up in your best costume, see the cyclist warm up in team area before the race starts at 11:20 AM.

    Mark Erickson - Reply

    Thanks Deborah! We are excited to see the race in Woodland Park.

Joel Hagan - Reply

We’ll have a STRIDER Adventure Zone run by our friends at The Axel Project at every finish festival of the 2014 USA Pro Cycling Challenge! It’s a great opportunity for toddlers to try out riding for their first time or experienced riders to have some fun on the ramps and obstacles. There will be a STRIDER Race put on by Breckenridge Grand Vacations at the finish of stage 5 (http://breckenridgegrandvacations.com/StriderChallenge.html).

The STRIDER World Championship Series finale is happening in Denver on Sunday 9/24! We’ve already got 60+ riders pre-registered to test their skills in Civic Center Park. Come out and have some fun and stay for the overall finish just a few wheel rotations away. http://www.striderbikes.com/blog/strider-racing/item/5391-denveraug24

Stride On!

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We’re thrilled to see so many people out enjoying (and often rediscovering the joy of) riding a bike right now, and we’re asking ALL bicyclists to do their part to prevent the spread of #covid19 by wearing a mask or other face covering when out for a ride. Doing so keeps you, your loved ones, those around you, and all Coloradans safer while helping reduce stress on our medical system. If you still need a mask, click the link in our bio to pre-order one now and support our advocacy work! Thanks so much to everyone who has already purchased, and to @primalwear for supporting our efforts over the years. Ride on.
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