The USA Pro Challenge has the fans. It has international television coverage, supportive sponsors, the world’s top teams and Colorado communities that clamor for host duty.
But after five years, what the Pro Challenge still lacks is a title sponsor that can keep it alive.
This is not a new problem. Professional cycling is largely supported by benevolent billionaires, who are always in short supply. Endless doping scandals haven’t helped the sport either.
USA Pro Challenge Preview: UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Ready to Take on “America’s Race”
The 2015 USA Pro Challenge presents great opportunity for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team with seven iconic stages for the men and three all-new stages for the women around the mountainous state of Colorado. The talented international field, deep crowds, amazing mountain scenery, and friendly host towns have helped the USA Pro Challenge become a premier event on the US Calendar. In 2014, Kiel Reijnen lit up the race with a triumphant victory on the opening stage in Aspen, Colorado. The team united around Reijnen for the remaining stages, dominating the sprint category to claim the overall sprinter’s green jersey after the final stage in Denver. In 2015, the team will once again look for opportunities to add another jersey to the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team collection.
Kiel Reijnen, sprinting to victory on stage 1 of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge. Reijnen earned the sprinter’s green jersey and with the help of his strong teammates, protected the jersey through the final stage.
Reijnen said of the race, “The USA Pro Challenge is a race we look forward to every year. It’s our chance to show off in front of home crowds on our training roads. The team had a stellar showing last week at Tour of Utah so we are headed to the Pro Challenge with confidence and a taste for yellow.”
The men’s race begins on a 47-mile circuit in beautiful Routt County. The circuit starts and finishes in downtown Steamboat Springs, and will be completed twice by the eager peloton, totaling 6518 feet of climbing. The 96-mile stage will likely end with a sprint finish, and the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team will be riding hard on the front of the pack with the aim of positioning their talented sprinters for the finale.
Day two leads the peloton south towards Summit County. The mountaintop finish at Arapahoe Basin comes after 115 miles of racing, and will be a great opportunity for the team to test its strength in the mountains. The five-mile finishing climb on Loveland Pass road will be a true spectacle for the crowds lining the steep mountain road. Stage three takes place in the high mountains. With the backdrop of Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado, the peloton will head over Independence Pass to Aspen, before returning to Summit County on Stage Four– the 126-mile trek through South Park to Breckenridge. With intermediate sprint points available throughout and an ambitious field of international talent, the stage will be filled with aggressive racing.
The ever important individual time trial moves from Vail to Breckenridge for 2015, with a hilly 8.5-mile route sure to push the riders to their limit. The time trial also serves as the first stage of the women’s edition, adding fresh legs and a new dynamic to the event. With the high mountains in the background, the race will then head to the Front Range for an exciting second half of the week. A long and mountainous stage six will take riders to northern Colorado, finishing in Fort Collins with Buckhorn and Rist Canyons in between. The final seventh stage will begin with the iconic Lookout Mountain climb in Golden. As has become tradition for the race, the streets of Denver will play host to an exciting circuit race to end the week’s racing. With a long run in to the finish, expect to see the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train come to the front to battle it out for the win.
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team brings a strong and close-knit roster to the USA Pro Challenge. After a successful Tour of Utah, Kiel Reijnen is on top form, and will be the one to watch on the opening punchy stage in Steamboat Springs. Alongside Reijnen, The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team is fielding sprinters John Murphy and Marco Canola. With options in the sprint finishes and plenty of horsepower to control the race, the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train will be a crowd favorite throughout the week. Accomplished climber and time trial specialist Janez Brajkovič, will lead the charge in the rarefied air of the high mountains and the Breckenridge Time Trial. In the breakaways and lead out trains, talented all-around riders Danny Summerhill, Tanner Putt, Chris Jones, and team captain Jonny Clarke complete the versatile roster. Reijnen is entering the race with confidence, “I will be looking to add to my stage tally and finish the week wearing the sprint jersey again. We, of course, have Jani for GC and John Murphy for the larger group sprints making for a well-rounded squad regardless of how the race plays out.”
General Manager and Sporting Director Mike Tamayo commented, “After a long, hard early season, the riders were able to take some rest and then execute quality training together before this stage racing block. What we saw in Utah was an incredibly strong and cohesive group of teammates, willing to do anything for each other. Our guys are highly motivated and prepared as they head to Colorado.”
The inaugural 2015 Women’s USA Pro Challenge is a three-day invitation-only event, kicking off in Breckenridge on August 21st and concluding in Golden on August 23rd. The USA Pro Challenge is the largest spectator event in the history of the state, and will spotlight the best of the best in professional cycling. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, fresh off a stage win and overall victory at the Tour of Utah, will be lining up with the dynamic sprinting pair of Hannah Barnes and Coryn Rivera. Katie Hall and Abby Mickey bring immense climbing ability, with proven all-around rider Scotti Wilbourne and time trial expert Linda Villumsen completing the roster. Hall’s victory at the Tour of California early in the year proved she has the legs to climb with the best. Rivera is confident in the team she will be racing with at the USA Pro Challenge, “After a great finish at the Tour of Utah Women’s Edition, the Women’s team is looking forward to continuing our relentless teamwork to propel us to more success at the USA Pro Challenge. The ultimate goal for the team is to win, we don’t show up on the line for 2nd place.”
To follow the men and women of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team as they race across the state of Colorado at the USA Pro Challenge, click here or the button below.
Follow the team at USA Pro Challenge
SALT LAKE CITY (July 30, 2015) – The preliminary rosters for the 16 men’s teams competing at the 2015 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Aug. 3-9, include 125 professional cyclists representing 24 countries. Fifteen of the athletes taking part in this year’s 712-mile, seven-day race have experience at Grand Tour races (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España). On the women’s side, 17 teams competing at the two-day Tour of Utah Women’s Edition: Criterium Classic, Aug. 2-3, are expected to bring a total of 94 riders representing eight countries.
“This is one of the strongest fields in the 11-year history of the Tour of Utah,” said Executive Director Jenn Andrs. “We will have very worthy men’s and women’s champions emerge from such talented and competitive teams. From the sprint finishes to the mountain climbs, the race route will be challenging for the riders and provide dramatic viewing for spectators. We look forward to a tremendous week of racing as we showcase the state through sport.”
Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Riders to Watch
Defending two-time Tour of Utah champion Tom Danielson (USA) of Team Can nondale-Garmin will pursue a record third consecutive overall victory. Danielson will be supported by three Americans with Grand Tour experience — Alex Howes, Ben King, and Ted King — as well as Joe Dombrowski, who was named the Best Young Rider and finished fourth overall at the 2012 Tour of Utah.
“The Tour of Utah is one of the toughest races in the world. I am super proud to be two-time defending champion of this race,” said Danielson, who captured the King of the Mountain jersey at this year’s Volta Ciclista a Catalunya in Spain. “The state of Utah and the race are one of a kind and I look forward to coming back with my teammates to defend my title.”
The American climber will be challenged by a number of stellar riders, including two-time Tour of Utah runner-up Chris Horner (USA), riding this year for Airgas Safeway Cycling Team. Horner, the 2013 Vuelta a España champion, finished a solid fifth in May at the USA Cycling Professional Road Race championship.
“I love Utah. It has everything that I love about the sport — hard racing, hot weather, steep climbs, fantastic fans and beautiful courses. I can’t wait to be back there with Team Airgas Safeway to race for the win,” Horner added.
Four teams in this year’s men’s field competed at the Tour de France — BMC Racing Team, Team Can nondale-Garmin, MTN-Qhubeka presented by Samsung, and Trek Factory Racing. The BMC Racing Team will feature American Joey Rosskopf, who was the Utah Office of Tourism King of the Mountain winner in Utah last year; Campbell Blakemore, the 22-year-old Australian who is the reigning world Under 23 time trial champion; and veteran Michael Schär of Switzerland, who has competed at all three Grand Tours and won Stage 2 of the 2014 Tour of Utah.
Trek Factory Racing brings the 2015 USA Cycling Professional Road Race national champion Matthew Busche and the five-time national road race champion of Luxembourg Fränk Schleck. After a one-year hiatus from racing in 2013, Schleck returned in 2014 by winning his fifth national title.
MTN-Qhubeka presented by Samsung, a Pro Continental team, made its Tour de France debut this year, winning one stage and finishing fifth overall in the team classification. It became the first African-registered trade team to ride the Tour, and makes its debut at the Tour of Utah. The team will feature riders from six countries, including accomplished sprint specialist Matthew Goss of Australia. A former world champion in track cycling, Goss was a silver medalist at the 2011 world road race championships and won two stages of the 2010 Giro d’Italia.
Other Pro Continental teams racing in Utah are Bardiani-CSF, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, Drapac Professional Cycling and Team Colombia. The UnitedHealthcare Pro team will bring its newest member, Janez Brajkovic of Slovenia. He is a former Grand Tour rider who finished in the Top 10 of the Tour de France in 2012. His teammates in Utah will include American Kiel Reijnen, who won the mountains classification at the 2015 Tour of Langkawi, and Tanner Putt, a Park City native who won the Under 23 National Road Race championship last year.
Featured on the Drapac Pro Cycling squad is Dutch sprinter Wouter Wippert, who has won multiple stages this year at the Tour de Taiwan and Tour de Korea. He is joined by lead-out specialist Graeme Brown of Australia, a 15-year veteran with Grand Tour experience. On Team Colombia, 19-year-old Daniel Martinez is one Colombian rider to watch, who captured the King of the Mountain jersey on the first stage of the Route du Sud in France. His teammate, Miguel Ángel Rubiano, is the reigning Colombian Road Race national champion and finished sixth overall at Route du Sud. Bardiani-CSF had a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia. Its Utah roster includes Italian Sonny Colbrelli, who had five wins in 2014 including a stage at the Tour of Slovenia.
Team rosters from Continental teams include strong talent who have excelled at the Tour of Utah in past years. Michael Torckler (New Zealand), who captured the 2013 Utah Office of Tourism KOM classification, will be racing this year for Australia’s Team Budget Forklifts. The 2012 KOM winner from Utah Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) will return, racing for Jamis Hagens-Berman presented by Sutter Home. Americans Eric Young and Jesse Anthony of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies have won stages at the Tour of Utah, Young in 2014 and Anthony in 2011. Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis returns this year with Australian Lachlan Morton, who won Stage 3 of the 2012 Tour of Utah and won the Best Young Rider jersey that year. Team SmartStop returns with last year’s Tour of Utah points classification winner Jure Kocjan of Slovenia. He will be joined by Mexican time trial national champion Flavio De Luna, and U.S. Pro Criterium national champion Eric Marcotte.
All riders ranked in the Top Three of USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar (NRC) will be in Utah this year – – NRC points leader Michael Woods (Canada) of Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies, second-place rider Gregory Brenes (Costa Rica) of Jamis-Hagens Berman presented Sutter Home, and John Murphy (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling in third position. Hincapie Racing Team leads the team point standings for the NRC.
There are six riders in the field who have ties to Utah. Brothers Tanner Putt of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team and Chris Putt of Axeon Cycling Team, grew up in Park City. Rob Squire of Hincapie Racing Team and Erik Slack of Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis both live in Salt Lake City. Daniel Eaton of Axeon Cycling Team and Australian Tommy Nankervis, used to live in Salt Lake City when they competed for other teams.
Tour of Utah Women’s Edition: Criterium Classic Riders to Watch
Returning to defend her title at the Tour of Utah Women’s Edition is 22-year-old American Coryn Rivera of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team. Rivera has 68 national titles so far in her career covering three disciplines (road, track, cyclocross). She is currently ranked fifth in the individual standing of the USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar (NCC).
The Tour of Utah Women’s Edition: Criterium Classic is an omnium-style competition that will take place over two days — Aug. 3 in Logan and Aug. 4 in Ogden. It is sanctioned by USA Cycling as part of the NCC. All of the women’s professional teams currently ranked in the Top 11 of the NCC are confirmed to race in the 17-team field.
In addition, the Top 10 riders on the NCC individual rankings will compete. Rivera will be joined by NCC points leader Erica Allar, racing for LA Sweat; Samantha Schneider of ISCorp presented by Smart Choice MRI (second overall); Tina Pic of Pepper Palace Pro Cycling presented by The Happy Tooth (third); Skylar Schneider of ISCorp presented by Smart Choice MRI (fourth); and Kendall Ryan of Team TIBCO-SVB (sixth), who will wear the stars-and-stripes jersey as the U.S. national criterium champion.
Sprint specialist Allar has won the individual NCC title for four consecutive seasons. This year she has 11 podium finishes, including a third place at one stage of the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Edition and the Omnium title at the 2015 Saint Francis Tulsa Tough. Pic, a Bountiful, Utah resident, is a six-time U.S. national criterium champion and four-time NRC champion.
The ISCorp, a Domestic Elite team from Wisconsin, leads the NCC team standings by 472 points over UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling. This top team is led by the Schneider sisters. Twenty-four-year-old Samantha holds 11 U.S. national titles (U23 & Junior) and has two NCC event wins this year (Saint Francis Tulsa Tough and Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix). Skyler, 17, won the 2014 USA Cycling Junior Criterium national championships and has three podium finishes this season.
For the first time, all the men’s teams will be joined by the women’s teams at a special event for cycling fans on Saturday, Aug. 1. The Team Presentation, hosted at the Logan Golf and Country Club, will take place at 7 p.m. The event provides free general admission seating for all spectators, and cameras are welcome.
The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah continues to be free to all spectators, making professional cycling one of the most unique professional sports in the world today. Read details about the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah by visiting www.touofutah.com, as well as social channels Facebook (tourofutah), Twitter (@tourofutah #TOU15, #TOUWE15), Instagram (thetourofutah) and YouTube (Tour of Utah).