By Beth Dodd:
This August big crowds of bicycling enthusiasts are expected to pour into Woodland Park to see some of the sport’s best athletes during Stage 5 of the seven day USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Known for its lung-searing altitudes and intense climbs through the Colorado Rockies, the fourth annual race is the largest spectator event in the history of the state.
The technical director of the race visited Woodland Park on February 12 to plan the details of the big day. He met with the local organizing committee, city officials, the Colorado State Patrol, and CDOT to discuss the start, circuit, and other key elements for Stage 5. Approximately 300 to 400 volunteers will be needed to help run the event.
The racers will ride from Woodland Park to Breckenridge on Friday, August 22. The cyclists will depart from Woodland around 11:00 a.m. after making a loop through town. Woodland Park plans to set up an event village near the starting line of the race. The event will be televised around the world.
City manger David Buttery claims as many as 5,000 people watched the bike event in 2012 when the race made a sprint through town. A much larger crowd is expected this time as the starting line will be located in Woodland Park. Some estimates say the town could double in size on race day. Although local schools will have started their fall session by then, the school district has announced plans to let students out of class to enjoy the event.
According to Mike Perini, the chairman of the local organizing committee for the 2014 race, Woodland’s hotels are already booked full for the event. However, the competitors and their support teams are expected to spend the night before Stage 5 in Colorado Springs, where Stage 4 ends, and arrive in Woodland Park in the morning. Perini compared having the start of Stage 5 in Woodland Park with being in the pit at a NASCAR race before the flag drops.
This year will be the third time the USA Pro Cycling Challenge has come through Woodland, but the first time the town has been a host city. The 2014 race, described as “where elite professional cyclists from around the world will be put to the ultimate test in America’s most difficult cycling race” starts in Aspen with a circuit race on August 18. The next day racers will travel through the rugged Rockies from Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte.
On August 20, the race moves to Gunnison for a mountaintop finish on Monarch Mountain. From there, participants will travel to Colorado Springs for another day of circuits. Stage 5 will be Woodland Park’s moment in the spotlight, with the race starting there and moving west over Wilkerson Pass and Hoosier Pass into Breckenridge. Stage 7 is an Individual Time Trial in Vail on August 23.
The race will conclude on Sunday, August 24. Race fans helped shape Stage 7 by voting online for four different possible final venues. The last stage will take riders from Boulder through Golden and over Lookout Mountain, finishing with three circuits around Downtown Denver.
To learn more about Woodland Park’s participation in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, visit https://www.facebook.com/usaprochallengewoodlandpark. There is also information at the race’s website or Woodland Park’s website, http://www.city-woodlandpark.org.