America’s sexiest cycling race is not only coming to Aspen next summer but it is staying the night.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge again selected Aspen as one of a dozen cities that will host the week-long bike race, officials confirmed Thursday evening, hours after The Denver Post broke the news.
Over the summer, when the wildly popular event made its debut, the cyclists finished the queen stage in Aspen and then the race and its entourage quickly moved on to the next town. But in 2012, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will feature the same grueling grind over 12,126-foot Cottonwood Pass and 12,095-foot Independence Pass in a 131-mile odyssey from Gunnison to Aspen — which many believed was the most exciting stage in 2011 — and then, the next day, the race will go back up Independence Pass, down to Twin Lakes and into Leadville before heading through Minturn and climbing up to the village at Beaver Creek.
To have one stage finish in Aspen and another begin here is quite a coup for city and business leaders who were hoping the event and its followers would spend more time and money downtown. In all, there were 25 cities in Colorado that formally bid on hosting the race in 2012 and nearly 40 cities initially expressed interest.
There are four new cities joining the 2012 race: Durango (said to be home to more professional cyclists, national champions and Olympians per capita than any other town in the United States) Telluride, Montrose and Boulder.
“By incorporating iconic cycling cities like Boulder and Durango in our second-year race we will further build the virtual postcard for the state of Colorado that we established in our inaugural year,” Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, said in a prepared statement. “The host cities selected for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge will enable us to showcase the beauty and hospitality of Colorado to a worldwide audience.”
Aspen has strong ties to the event. Part-time resident and cycling legend Lance Armstrong concocted the idea for a statewide race while pedaling through the mountains above his home here one day. Armstrong called up then-Gov. Bill Ritter and soon the two were scheming over lunch in Aspen. Ever since, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland — a passionate bicycling
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