Levi Leipheimer in the Prologue of the 2011 USAPCC. Photographer: Courtesy of Rcrhee on Flickr
Ask, and very occasionally you receive.
You might remember that though I enjoyed last year's premier USA Pro Cycling Challenge, I also had my criticisms. Other than the convoluted and impossible-to-remember name, my biggest beef was with the course, which had it's ups and downs but really didn't deliver much drama beyond the Stage 3 halfway point. At the time, I implored race officials for a more exciting course in 2012, ideally one with a mountaintop finish.
USAPCC organizers today announced specifics of the 2012 route, and it looks like I got my wish. This year's race sees the introduction of a seventh stage (up from six last year), the inclusion of four new host cities (Durango, Telluride, Montrose, and Boulder), and the addition of a climbing finish late in the race. The new Stage 1 isn't likely to make any big waves in the standings, but the climb over Lizard Head Pass is a scenic one and with multiple laps around Durango and finishing circuits in Telluride, it should be great for spectators. And the punchy little climb into Beaver Creek at the end of Stage 4 will probably make for an exciting little sprint among the favorites.
The big news, though, comes late in the race. Not only does Stage six take in the climb up Boulder Canyon to Nederland and the climbs up Lefthand Canyon and over Lee Hill Road en route from Lyons back to Boulder, but it also finishes with the steep, dramatic 3.5-mile climb up Flagstaff Mountain. This climb is an icon in the Front Range, and it could be decisive. But if it's still close, the brand new Stage 7 individual time trial, a flat, fast, technical 15.3-mile course around downtown Denver, will keep the drama high until the very last racer. It's a finish that suits all the top contenders from last year, including Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson, and 2011 winner Levi Leipheimer, meaning this one really could come down to the wire.
I lament the exclusion of last year's uphill time trial on Vail Pass. But you can't have it all, and the new stages should more than make up for it. Overall, it looks to me like a great new course and should attract at least as much international talent and even more spectators than last year.
Apparently, however, nobody at the USAPCC got my memo about the race name.