The US Pro Cycling Challenge is going to roll out of Durango and finish in Telluride, Colorado. On hand are some of the best professional cyclists on the planet racing for seven days completing 683 miles total by the time they reach Denver.
Tommy Danielson of Garmin-Sharp calls several cities his “hometown” and Durango is on that list.
“As we all know, this is really my hometown. I started my cycling career here at Fort Lewis. I grew my
cycling career here with the community. And just being here with the race start is just amazing! I’m
blessed to be part of this Durango community,” said Danielson.
As such Danielson knows many of the key climbs like the back of his hand as well as what could transpire on these tough slopes.
“Initially when you look at a climb you think nothing is going to happen on the short ones and the long
ones will be difficult. You have to know your limits. I think the short climbs will be decisive. The level of riders that we have here with the first guys punching it at the front, they will take everyone to their
Danielson pointed to one climb in particular as a challenge. “Flagstaff is going to be nasty. Altitude does crazy stuff.”
Defending USA Pro Challenge champion Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma-Quickstep has had a tough latter part of the season. While training in Spain he was struck by a car, breaking his leg. There was a question mark if he was going to be able to compete in the Amgen Tour of California. His leg healed to a point that he could race and he finished the tough stage race, but was never in a position to challenge for the overall.
“Any injury is difficult to come back from. That was one of the hardest in my career. You have no choice
but to work as hard as you can and come back as strong as you can.”
He finished the Tour de France, disappointed by the result as it was evident that rebounding from the injury was harder than expected. Here in Colorado, Leipheimer seemed more optimistic about his race form.
“I feel good and I’m looking forward to racing here in Colorado.”
Typically the opening stage is one of the “easier” stages, designed for the sprinter. Not the case tomorrow. The stage is 125 miles and includes the climb of Lizard Head Pass, which takes the riders to an elevation of 10,222 feet. From the summit the finish line in Telluride is only 15 miles away. Look for a breakaway to escape just after the Sprint Line in Dolores. Whoever is still off the front by the final King of the Mountain in Alta will be in position with a strong chance of winning the stage.