The USA Pro Cycling Challenge: Stage 3

Gunnison to Aspen

Aug 16, 2012
Outside Magazine
The Maroon Bells outside of Asp

The Maroon Bells outside of Aspen    Photo: Molas/Wikimedia

Not only is this the race’s queen stage, but it’s arguably one of the hardest days of racing in the U.S. First, the riders climb up the 14-mile-long Cottonwood Pass. Next, they descend into Buena Vista and begin the always-painful climb up Independence Pass. Last year, George Hincapie won the stage from a select group of riders with a courageous descent in the rain. You, however, won't be heading into Aspen; instead, you'll be enjoying the more laid-back town of Buena Vista. But, if you want to watch some of the best women's racing in the country and soak up the luxury of this former mining town, head into Aspen for the Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge.

WHERE TO STAY: Find the Arrowhead Point Campground in Buena Vista, where you can choose from cabins or camping sites. Lots of people will jump ahead and spend the night in Aspen. But with the race passing through Buena Vista and the town loaded with great places to eat and camp, this is your best bet if you're looking to get off the beaten path. If you're in dire need of the luxury Aspen experience, try out the Hyatt Grand Aspen for it's incredible rooms.

WHAT TO DO: Head over to Whitewater Park, the premier whitewater park in Colorado and go tubing. You won’t be disappointed. If you’re in the mood to punish yourself, there are four 14ers in the surrounding area. Mt. Yale would make more than a challenging diversion. If you're in Aspen, take the bus and make the hike up to the Maroon Bells as long or as short as you'd like. Either way, it won't disappoint. Just don't be surprised if you spot a mountain goat or some nudists at the hot spring.

WHERE TO EAT: For lunch in Buena Vista, there’s no question: The Evergreen Café. You'll have more options than you can handle in Aspen, but Peach's Corner Cafe has some of the best eggs in town.

HOW TO WATCH THE RACE: If you’re ready to ride, tackle Cottonwood Pass (it will not be open to cars). It’s an all-day affair, so come prepared with warm clothing and some snacks. The ride will be well worth it; you’ll catch the early-stage action and have a great descent back into town after the race passes through. If you’re without your bike, stake out a spot in town for when the racers pass by, preferably near the sprint line.

RACE DAY SCHEDULE: Racing begins at 10:10 a.m. Riders will be at the top of Cottonwood Pass between 12:36 and 12:02 p.m. and in Buena Vista between 1:34 and 12:46 p.m.

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