Seeing Colorado on USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Today is Stage 4 of the seven stage USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. One of the most captivating aspects for me watching professional cycling on TV is the opportunity to see landscapes and towns in the race locations.

In yesterday’s Stage 3 of the Colorado race, cyclists climbed the two highest mountain passes in the Colorado Rockies starting at Gunnison and riding a dirt road over Cottonwood Pass at 12,126 ft. followed by Independence Pass at 12,095 feet before descending into Aspen on a 131-mile ride.

Summer 2011 I drove my car across portions of this route. I particularly enjoyed the scenery from the small town of Buena Vista where there is the little Best Western Plus Vista Inn hotel.

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Town of Buena Vista and Collegiate Peaks, some of the highest mountains in the Rockies at over 14,000 feet. This is the area where the Arkansas River forms and heads east.

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The road to Aspen west of Independence Pass.

This is the second year of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado and it is becoming one of the world premier events in professional cycling. Stage 3 yesterday from Gunnison to Aspen was the only stage of the race repeating the same route as last year.

The road from Independence Pass is downhill and cyclists reached speeds around 60mph on their bikes yesterday as they headed into Aspen.

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Hyatt Grand Aspen Lodge. Just to the right, out of the picture, is St. Regis Aspen.

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St. Regis Aspen July 2011

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St. Regis Aspen July 2010

The Westin Snowmass, located in the ski resort adjacent to Aspen, will open this November. That will give SPG members a good alternative to the high priced, high category St. Regis Aspen.

Major Professional Cycling Races

The Tour de France each July is the most elite of the professional cycling grand tours. Giro d’Italia in May and Vuelta a Espana in August are the other two grand tour events in Europe. These races are three weeks long and grueling events.

The USA is establishing its own major professional cycling tours with one week races before and after the Tour de France in May with the Amgen Tour of California and August with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.

Tejay Van Garderen is one of the best young cyclists in the USA right now, BMC #31 at Amgen Tour of California May 15, 2012 after Santa Cruz stage 2 (actually Aptos finish).

These are great opportunities to see some of the world’s top professional cyclists and regions of California and Colorado now that cycling races are covered by NBC Sports Network.

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Cyclists rode through the valley on a gradual uphill climb yesterday until the steeper climb to Independence Pass.

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Switchback road just before reaching Independence Pass.

The crowds were wild on the Gunnison to Aspen stage. The main difference I saw in the USA crowds yesterday compared to the crowds at the Tour de France in July was the number of women running alongside the cyclists cheering them on. In France the spectator antics are almost always men.

One of the crazy aspects of professional cycling races is the lack of barriers between cyclists and spectators. Photographers stand in the road snapping photos and step aside at the last second as cyclists pass. People crowd the mountain passes where the racers ride more slowly uphill and run alongside the cyclists. Many people wear wild costumes like the guy running beside the racers in Telluride Monday and Crested Butte Tuesday with large multipoint antlers extending from his football helmet. I saw photos of Antler guy yesterday on the web, but I can’t locate one today.

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Today the racers leave Aspen, travel back up Independence Pass and head north through Leadville, the highest elevation town in the US, and finish at Beaver Creek, elevation 8,100 feet.

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is a happening place today. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in the adjacent ski slopes gets better reviews. The Westin Riverfront Resort Beaver Creek is at the base of Beaver Creek, a thousand feet below the ski slopes. This is a popular hotel near the river and I-70.

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Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.

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Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.

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The aerial photography of the box canyon at Telluride on Monday’s cycling stage gave me an urge to check out that location. The Fairmont Heritage Place, Franz Kammer Lodge is one of the few brand hotels in Telluride if it fits your budget. Rates tonight are around $350.

Looks like Best Western Twin Peaks Lodge in Ouray, 10 miles out of Telluride is one of the few chain hotels available in the area.

You can see the USA Pro Cycling Stage 4 race from Aspen to Beaver Creek today on NBC Sports Network.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. Ric,

    Good to read you are a fellow cycling fan. However to call this little race one of the premier cycling events in the world is a bit overated.

    I am a professional cycling phtographer, having done the Tour, the Giro and all the classics this year. Also a loyal blog reader and FTer/Milepointer. IF you’re ever around in Europe during the cycling season, let me know and I’ll show you around in a proper cycling race 😉 With official access to the race.

    Not that many chain hotels around though, i usually have to resort to the odd HIX/Ramada/ParkInn.

    Cheers Thomas

  2. @Thomas – I agree that these new races in California and Colorado are not in the same league as the grand tours or the historic races of Europe.

    The fact that Tour of California brings many of the premier cyclists in the world to my local region of California each year is a great change since my interest in cycling developed from several years in European hotels in July starting in 2000.

    The Tour de France became a familiar viewing event.

    My wife keeps asking me if I have complained yet in social media about the lousy sound for Tour of Colorado with all the disruptive wind noise and broken video reception of the cyclists in the mountains.

    I’d love to see a proper cycling race in Europe.

    I’ll be in touch.

  3. They went through Lyons yesterday. In the Boulder/Lyons area, it seems like there is a cycling event every other week. Biker gangs out here are like motorcycle gangs that have their colors and some of them have little respect for the rules of the road or other people.

    Glad you enjoyed the scenery, both on the TV and last year.

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