DENVER (CBS4) – This month marks the fourth year of the USA Pro Challenge, and race continues boast an impressive group of elite pro racers and a punishing overall elevation gain.
The TV coverage of the race provides a boost to Colorado’s tourism efforts, with great shots of the high country as well as Colorado’s more populated areas.
Here are the most awesome Colorado locations the riders pass through in the various stages of this year’s race:
5. Vail Pass: A time trial is once again taking place in Vail, and it heads up the west side of Vail Pass. The bike path the riders travel on for the higher elevations of the ride is located next to Interstate 70, and is one of several must-experience bike paths for riders in Colorado’s high country. It traverses between the westbound and eastbound lanes of the interstate and eventually reaches the Copper Mountain ski area on the other side of the pass. Visitors in late August can still catch some late-season wildflowers, and the aspens intermingled with the evergreens are on beautiful at this time of year as well as in the fall when the leaves are changing.
4. Aspen Valley: Most people think of world class skiing when they think of Aspen. But the Aspen Valley is gorgeous in the summer, and definitely worth a visit if you’ve never been in the warmer months. The race begins with a circuit race that starts and ends in the mountain town. In the middle riders will go through Snowmass Village and past McLain Flats. The White River National Forest surrounds Aspen, and the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness area is right nearby. Definitely bring your camera if you’re headed this way.
3. Woodland Park & Tarryall Road: Stage 5 covers a huge distance. It first winds west from Woodland Park on Highway 24 and later takes riders through the impressive Pike National Forest on the recently paved Tarryall Road. During the first section riders will pass the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Visitors there can view fossils that show a once tropical environment in Colorado from 30,000 years ago.
PHOTO GALLERY: USA Pro Challenge 2013
On Tarryall Road riders should keep an eye out for big horn sheep. They will pass the Tarryall River Ranch, a fun private guest ranch, and then the Tarryall Reservoir.
2. Kebler Pass: Riders on Stage 2 will get a real treat when they head south of Carbondale on Highway 133 and follow the Crystal River. They will pass the town of Redstone with the famous Redstone Castle, then pass over Kebler Pass. The pass straddles two different wilderness areas and features one of the largest aspen forests in the world. Riders will pass by the old ghost town of Irwin, which includes a haunting cemetery packed with fascinating Colorado history.
1. Monarch Pass – For the first time the race ends on top of a mountain. The third stage takes riders from Gunnison east and up and over Monarch Pass all the way down to Salida and then back up the mountain to the top of Monarch Pass. The pass is along the Continental Divide and there’s a gondala tourists can take by parking their cars off Highway 50. There’s access to the Monarch Crest Trail, which is an awesome singletrack mountain biking trail. On the east side of the pass riders will be able to see Monarch Mountain ski area.
LINK: USA Pro Challenge Route
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CBS4’s Doug Whitehead contributed to this article.