(related cover story) by Rick Langenberg:
Move over Aspen, Vail, Crested Butte, Boulder and other top cycling hubs across Colorado, as Woodland Park and Teller County have moved into the fat tire big leagues.
In a decision that could put the “City Above the Clouds” on the international map and generate millions in potential tourism and publicity dollars, Woodland Park was named Monday as one of only a handful of host communities for the 2014 USA Pro Challenge competition that features the top cyclists in the world as part of a seven-day competition throughout Colorado, drawing comparisons to the Tour de France. Woodland Park gained much allure in 2012, when it became a sprint location for the Pro Challenge. As a sprint city, thousands of cycling fans and visitors bombarded the town and much of Teller County in August, 2012 to witness some of the fastest speeds ever recorded on the top of mountain bikes. “The USA Pro Challenge was a definite home run for Woodland Park,” said Mike Perini, of Perini and Associates, who headed the local marketing efforts for the cycling sprint, in mid-August 2012. “I have been told this was the largest crowd to witness any event that occurred down the main highway in town. It created significant exposure for Woodland Park,” added Perini, who estimated that at least 5,000 spectators watched the cycling sprint in downtown Woodland.
Surprisingly, Woodland Park, Teller County and the entire Pikes Peak region was left out of the annual race last summer.
But that is not the case for next August with the Pikes Peak area returning to main stage cycling arena. Woodland Park has been touted by race organizers as one of the newer towns to serve as a major host city for the competition that attracts one million spectators. “Woodland Park, the ‘City Above the Clouds,’ is renowned for its natural beauty and proximity to great outdoor adventures. Home to one of the sprint competitions during Stage 5 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge, the city sits atop an elevation of 8,465 feet and is surrounded by national forest,” stated the USA Pro Challenge, in an official statement. Woodland Park and Monarch Mountain were described by race organizers as some of the newest race additions.
For Woodland Park, this new designation could become a major economic and recreation boom, with the amount of competitors and race enthusiasts staying in the area. The beginning and closing of each day’s competition often creates quite a buzz that is unprecedented in the cycling world. As a host community, Woodland and Teller County will attract a lot more spectators than they did year and a half ago, along with more overnight visitors.
According to the preliminary race schedule, Woodland Park will become the host city for Day 5, tentatively slated for Aug. 22, when racers travel from Woodland Park to Breckenridge, via Hwy. 24 and Hwy. 9. In 2012, racers took a mostly downhill trek between Breckenridge and Colorado Springs, with a key sprint site established in Woodland Park.
A few of the race details still haven’t been finalized, such as the conclusion. Race organizers are asking the public to vote on what route they would like to see for the ending of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge.
Here is the proposed schedule for the 2014 Pro Challenge.
Stage 1: Monday, August 18 – Aspen Circuit Race
Stage 2: Tuesday, August 19 – Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte
Stage 3: Wednesday, August 20 – Gunnison to Monarch Mountain (mountaintop finish)
Stage 4: Thursday, August 21 – Colorado Springs Circuit Race
Stage 5: Friday, August 22 – Woodland Park to Breckenridge
Stage 6: Saturday, August 23 – Vail Individual Time Trial
Stage 7: Sunday, August 24 – ???