USA Pro Challenge – Breckenridge
The USA Pro Challenge is arguably America’s favorite bike race …. well, hands down a Colorado favorite, but watched and loved all over the country. The last stage and finish in Downtown Denver saw Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team take the overall win for the second year in a row. Alex Howes (USA) of Team Garmin-Sharp, who has had an impressive performance in America’s biggest stage race, sprinted to the line to take the final stage win with the roar of huge crowds driving him to the finish.
“This is a race that I think has firm footing in the eyes of the world with it broadcasted in so many different countries,” said van Garderen. “I hope we can establish a tradition and soon this race will be one of the biggest historical races in the world.”
Jens Voigt was awarded the FirstBank Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for his impressive riding throughout the week. He had strong showing with a break away for the win in Stage 4, but was deny the glory of the win when the peloton charged past him in the last half mile into Colorado Springs.
Stage 5 was a challenging and soggy route from Woodland Park to Breckenridge where an attack in the last few miles of the race would take Laurent Didier (LUX) of Trek Factory Racing all the way to the finish. Overall leader and defending champion Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team held onto his 20 second lead. Jens Voigt, who ends a 33-year cycling career at the Pro Challenge, was honored in Breckenridge where Mayor John Warner awarded him with a signature Ullr Helmet at the Stage 5 finish.
Stage 5 also included a Town of Breckenridge loop with the infamous Moonstone climb. A Category 3, the Moonstone climb falls between 11% – 13% grade fluctuation with a crazy crowd of fist-pumping enthusiastic Breckenridge fans running side by side with the racers in a Tour-de-Francesque zaniness including purple blow-up animals, flags, costumes, cookies and beer. The best place to get up close and personal with some of the best cyclist in the world.
I may be a bit prejudice, but I think Breckenridge puts on one of the best Pro Challenge parties! The ancillary events of the day bring in the crowds. Fans traveled from all over the country be part of the excitement. The Breckenridge Local Organizational Committee (LOC) starts planning in January and with the cooperation of local sponsors & business owners, plans come together to entertain, dine and lodge the crowds of cycling fans.
Its family fun all day long in Breckenridge. Starting with the warm-fuzzy Breckenridge Grand Vacation Strider Challenge. The Strider Challenge brings out families with little kids on Strider bikes. It’s a little like herding kittens, but when they get to the starting line the kids mean business. Kid-like focus, waves, smiles, a few tears and some super encouraging parents get the kids all the way to the Pro Challenge finish line. The same finish line used by the Pros later in the afternoon.
The super groovy Funkadelic Pond Crossing (video) is quickly becoming a local favorite. It’s a disco-themed single rider race against time and gravity. Racers must rider their bike across a narrow floating wood track suspended by foam. The fastest time across wins, but the biggest challenges are getting across and who has the best costume. Kids seem to rule this year (2014).
Breckenridge loves cycling! Breckenridge has proudly and enthusiastically been a Host City every year since the inception of the USA Pro Challenge in 2011. With the support of local government, town business, locals and visiting fans we all hope that Breckenridge continues to be part of America’s favorite race.
Enjoy the Climb …
Photos, video & copy by climbbetty.com