6a0147e09179b6970b0154349988f0970c-120wiI am suffering from a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Specifically, I have Post-Tour-de-France-Withdrawal-Syndrome (PTdFWS).  Symptoms include staring at the blank television screen each evening and aimlessly wandering the house saying things like, “The elastic has snapped” and “He reached into his suitcase of pain and found that he forgot to pack.”

Fortunately, this year there is a cure.  Colorado’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge will be held August 22-28 and will be broadcast on Versus and NBC.  The Leopard Trek and Radio Shack teams will be there riding their state-of-the-art Madones.  The HTC Highroad team will also participate in what we now know is their final season.  Cadel Evans is expected to lead the BMC team and will be supported by former U.S. road racing champion, George Hincapie.  It is likely to be a high-altitude rematch between the Schleck brothers and this year’s winner of the Tour de France.  Let’s hope there are fewer crashes!

The race will begin on Monday, August 22nd with a fast, five mile Prologue that will begin in the magnificent Garden of the Gods, descend through Old Town and finish in downtown Colorado Springs.  Other than deciding who will wear the leader’s yellow jersey the next day, it will be too short to have much effect on the overall results.

But it won’t take long for the real fun to begin.  The first stage will include a climb over Monarch Pass that tops out at over 11,000 feet in elevation.  The finish will be on an uphill climb to Mt. Crested Butte.  Sprinters need not apply.

Wednesday’s route from Gunnison to Aspen is being called the Queen Stage because it will feature two demanding climbs over 12,000 feet.  The first will ascend a dirt road to Gunnison Pass and is sure to split the peloton.  Watch for Boulder, Colorado resident and former mountain biker Tom Danielson to emerge from the pack on the climb and use his descending skills to gain time on his rivals.  With his ninth-place finish in the Tour de France, the highest for any American, this is shaping up to be Tom’s breakout year.  He’s been training in these mountains since his return and has to be among the favorites.

The next day’s time trial will be twice as long as the Prologue and will be uphill all the way.  Riders will gain nearly 1,800 feet  over the ten mile course that will start in Vail Village and end at the top of Vail pass.  The route will favor all-around riders like Levi Leipheimer and Cadel Evans who can both time trial and climb.

Friday’s route will provide little respite for the riders.  The route from Avon to Steamboat Springs is only 86 miles long but will climb 5,000 vertical feet.  Saturday’s route will be like a rest day.  It will start in Steamboat Springs and finish 105 miles later in downtown Breckenridge.  This may be the only bunch sprint of the race but it won’t do much to sort out the overall leaders.

The race will end on Sunday with a 78-mile looping ride that will start in Golden, climb over Lookout Mountain, and conclude with six laps of a circuit course before finishing in front of the magnificent State Capitol Building in downtown Denver.  It should be an exciting finish to a great inaugural race.
And the best part is that we will be another month closer to June 30th when the 2012 Tour de France starts!

For more information about the race and full television listings:  http://www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com

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