KUSA - The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is back for a third year and fans traveling to host cities should bring their bikes because there are a multitude of options for their own cycling adventures.
The race commences in Aspen on August 19 and ends in Denver on August 25th. Below is a sampling of the top cruiser, mountain and road biking routes in each of the eight host cities of the Pro Challenge.
Aspen/Snowmass: (August 19-20)
• Cruiser Bike: One of the most popular cruiser routes in Aspen, the Rio Grande Trail mirrors what used to be the railway, so it's never too difficult. This eight-mile path follows the river, visible for most of the meandering trail. Bikers can stop at the waterfall or watch boaters tackle rushing rapids.
• Mountain Bike: Valhalla is the most challenging downhill trail that thrills even the most seasoned riders. The trail features more than 1,400 feet of vertical drop, berms, jumps, bridges, tabletops, fruit bowl and rainbows, making it a perfect adventure for advanced riders.
• Road Bike: Aspen's most iconic road ride is to Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed peaks in North America. Best for intermediate to advanced riders, this 11-mile all uphill trek passes through lush aspen groves to the twin-peaked Bells. The ride begins west of downtown on Highway 82.
Breckenridge: (August 20-21)
• Cruiser Bike: Visitors can cruise through Breckenridge and pick up the makings of a picnic at The Bond on Picnic Loop. Exploring the town is a simple task via bike lanes and shared roadways, one of the many reasons why Breckenridge is ranked a gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community.
• Mountain Bike: The French Gulch area offers short loops for every skill level, as well as access to the community's vast trail network. Whether riders connect to the pristine single track or keep it short for an afternoon loop, they can expect to see a glimpse into Breckenridge's mining past.
• Road Bike: A classic Breckenridge road ride, and part of the Pro Challenge, Swan Mountain Road takes riders above Lake Dillon for excellent views of the Tenmile Range. Cyclists can ride this as an out-and-back, or continue into Dillon, across the Dam Road and return through Frisco on this intermediate ride.
Steamboat Springs: (August 21-22)
• Cruiser Bike: The Yampa River Core Trail, more of an easy-going cruiser ride, is a seven-mile trail that winds through downtown Steamboat Springs. Riders cruise past parks where they can stop and take in the beautiful scenery of cottonwood and aspen trees lining the bank.
• Mountain Bike: Riders can bike up the moderate single track of Bluffs Loop on Emerald Mountain. They can continue onward and upward through Emerald Meadows and Lupine and Larry's, topping out at the quarry after winding through the aspen groves on Blair Witch.
• Road Bike: If there's one road ride not to miss in Steamboat Springs, it's Coal Mine Loop. This epic 53.5-mile tour of winding county roads and open range allows bikers to head towards the pristine Stagecoach Reservoir that provides a refreshing cool down. The Pro Challenge riders will be taking off on this route as they leave on the Queen Stage.
Beaver Creek: (August 22)
• Cruiser Bike: The best cruiser paths can be reached by taking the free shuttle up to Beaver Creek Village. From there, bikers can head down the paved Beaver Creek Recreation Path, connecting Avon to the Village, or take the Valley Floor bike path along the Eagle River.
• Mountain Bike: Beaver Creek is a mountain biker's paradise offering nearly 50 miles of designated trails spread across three mountains. A local favorite is the three-mile Village-to-Village Trail, which meanders through aspens and between Beaver Creek's main mountain.
• Road Bike: The Colorado River Route offers a century ride from the base of Beaver Creek heading north on Highway 131. Road riders can experience a portion of this year's Queen's Stage by riding from the base of Beaver Creek, up Village Road to Bachelor Gulch. There, Pro Challenge racers will descend and return up Village Road, racing all the way into the heart of Beaver Creek Village.
Vail: (August 23)
• Cruiser Bike: Vail Recreation Path winds from West Vail to East Vail and has 1,100 acres of open space available to the public. The paved path that's ideal for cruisers stretches for 15 miles and is surrounded by 350,000 acres of national forest.
• Mountain Bike: Vail's popular Grand Traverse begins at Eagle's Nest. The intermediate five-mile trail starts out easy, looping through Game Creek Bowl, then becomes increasingly difficult as it wraps around the top of Sun Down Bowl. Mountain bikers can exit at Wildwood and enjoy incredible views.
• Road Bike: Vail Pass is a 38.6-mile route perfect for cyclists who are up for a challenging ride that mirrors part of this stage's Pro Challenge route. For those who want to coast the whole way, Vail offers shuttle services that will take cyclists to the top of the pass, allowing them to ride downhill into the Village.
Loveland: (August 24)
• Cruiser Bike: Loveland Recreation Trail is an extensive network of paved, off-street bike paths connecting many parks and lakes that passes by Loveland's vibrant downtown. Encircling the "Gateway to the Rockies," the southern loop follows the Big Thompson River, passing picnic areas, playgrounds and other recreational amenities.
• Mountain Bike: Pole Hill Road is one of the great cycling challenges in Northern Colorado. At less than three miles, the climb averages an eight percent grade and nears 14 percent at its steepest. The ripping descent back is full of fast exposed corners and white-knuckle straightaways, making this the perfect route for thrill seekers.
• Road Bike: Carter Lake Road is a favorite of serious roadies and recreational cyclists alike. The road hugs the eastern shore of Carter Lake, with challenging climbs on both the north and south approach. Once up to reservoir level, riders are treated to spectacular views of the lakefront, the foothills and the northern Front Range below.
Fort Collins: (August 24)
• Cruiser Bike: The Poudre River Trail provides 21 miles of meandering paved pathway for the ultimate cruiser experience. Starting at the local fish hatchery, the trail passes by wooded corridors and lakes and features informational signs that highlight historical sites and educational opportunities.
• Mountain Bike: Horsetooth Mountain Park is known for its namesake geographic feature, Horsetooth Rock. The park offers 29 miles of unrivaled off-road mountain biking opportunities where riders can choose from a variety of trails, all offering world-class variety and challenges for dirt lovers of all ages and skill level.
• Road Bike: Many of Fort Collins' signature rides leave town via roads that climb up into the foothills via Horsetooth Reservoir. Known collectively as Reservoir Road, these steep climbs put avid cyclists to the test and will likely prove decisive in Stage 6 of the Pro Challenge.
Denver: (August 25)
• Cruiser Bike: The Greenway Trail is perfect for those seeking a leisurely afternoon cruise. The paved path follows the South Platte River for almost 30 miles, passing Confluence Park, Hudson Gardens, REI and more. To commemorate Denver's early history, the Colorado Historical Society erected more than 20 historic signs located along the pathway.
• Mountain Bike: Bear Creek Bike Trail is a 20-mile route that follows the South Platte River to Morrison. Paved bike trails connect to Chatfield in the south and Golden in the north. It also connects to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, offering an opportunity to bike around 70 million year-old outcropping.
• Road Bike: One of the most popular bike trails in Denver, the Cherry Creek Bike Path runs along the South Platte River for more than 40 miles to Franktown. The route passes by Cherry Creek Shopping District and Cherry Creek State Recreation Area, and heads south to Castlewood Canyon State Park.
For additional information on biking in Colorado, please visit COLORADO.com. For more information on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, please visit www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com.
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