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USA Pro Cycling Challenge (That's In Colorado): MTFU?

At long last, it's time to get ready for America's newest stage race, the generically-named Colorado event which makes its debut starting August 22, as in next Monday. There are a lot of things to say about this race in advance, besides making fun of the name, but since it hasn't been run yet, let's proceed with a fair bit of caution. Hopefully with my trusty friend Colobecco (where is that goat?), it's time to dive in!

The Name!

[This isn't going to go well...]

The Name

Let's face it, this is a business move. Starting as the Quizno's Pro Cycling Challenge, something happened between race organizers and sandwich heat-refreshing conglomerate Quizno's to send the latter exiting stage left. So now it's the Quizno's [Your name here!] Pro Cycling Challenge. Someday a name -- maybe yours! -- will be there, and the race will be on sound financial and popular footing. So the current name should be considered growing pain material. Or they really just want to name it after the USA and don't care about the great races going on in California and Utah... which would not go over well.

The Website

Slick! Very comprehensive. And very... American. The Coppa Bernocchi, profiled yesterday, is coming up on a century of existence, with a hall-of-fame winners' list. And its website is a one-page contraption that looks like a PDF of a paper flier (albeit very nice and cool in its own way). Some very fine races have no web presence. The USAPCC? I don't know if it will work as a bike race, but I'm quite certain the smartphone experience will be a huge success.

But that's not a criticism! I have a smartphone, and every night before I go to bed I type a little message of thanks to Steve Jobs. Moreover, as a cycling media... um, something, I appreciate the full boat of info, downloadable, well-organized, pretty to look at, and fun to play with. I hope the race is a huge hit, because they've already set the new standard for race websites.

The Shape of the Race

Let's play a little word association, shall we? I say "Colorado," you say ___.

"South Park" "Coors Light" "MOUNTAINS!"

And yet, the race, while visually bathed from start to finish in some of the world's premier mountain scenery, boasts only a single MTF (mountain-top finish), on stage one, an ascent that rates about Cat-3 (Tour de France-speak for "ignore me") on the climbing scale. It's all of 4km, gaining about 200 meters total. So the race is a snoozer, right? Shouldn't they MTFU?

No, definitely not. While we may be accustomed to MTFs settling all scores in Europe, and even at the Tours of California and Utah, we're gonna see something else in Colorado. The race climbs several major mountain passes -- Monarch, Independence, Rabbit Ears -- legendary cycling routes befitting of a major race. It just doesn't do them at the end of the stages. Seriously, this may be the only race in the world where the KOM jersey is worth far more than stage wins, and may even rival the overall victory for indicia of awesomeness.

The other factor that makes my head spin a little is the altitude. The lowest point of the race is Denver, the Mile High City. I haven't calculated the highest point (I believe it's Breckenridge, 9600 feet last I checked), but so much of the race is held above 7000 that the high points are just icing on the cake. What this means for the outcome of the race... I have no idea. Will getting over the passes decide the outcome? Will races come back together on flats and descents? Will guys be falling off the pace left and right as soon as the road goes up and the oxygen isn't there to help?

No idea. This will be pretty much completely unique. Maybe the race favors guys with the most days at altitude, regardless of how they normally fare. Maybe the race favors the predictable climber studs: Levi, a Schleck, Basso, etc. Maybe the best descenders have the advantage. I love the shape of this race -- city to city regardless of whether that entails stages that look like something from the Tour. It's kind of old-school... and set in a landscape made for the soaring imagination which defines cycling.