Today may have started with frustrating news - the UCI is giving Astana a formal reprimand rather than rejecting their WorldTour license application. But, we can be happy because Astana likely won't be at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which released its host cities for 2015 and offered us a glimpse of the route.
Full route details aren't available yet and won't be for some time, but we can start to speculate about the shape of the race based on prior editions and the start and finish towns themselves. After all, if you are finishing at a ski resort, it's not too much to deduce that it's a summit finish (I mean, I'm sure they could have a parking lot criterium at 11,000 feet, but would they?). And, compared to last year, it looks like a few stages are getting big shakeups.
First off, the race's first stage begins and ends in Steamboat Springs instead of Aspen, as in years past. The area offers some spectacular scenery and climbs, but the lack of roads that make nice, not too-long loops means the race is likely to be a relatively flat one. After that, the race leaves Steamboat Springs to loop towards Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort (elevation 10,789ft) for what should be the first real GC shakeup of the race and the only true summit finish of the event.
Stage 3 goes from Copper Mountain to Aspen, likely over Independence Pass. The road over Independence Pass has become a stalwart in the Pro Cycling Challenge, in part thanks to its 12,000 foot elevation. In fact, Independence Pass could see two days of action, in a first, as Stage 4 departs Aspen and heads back northeast to Breckenridge, the stage that used Independence Pass last year. In Breckenridge, the peloton will likely ride up the steep grades of Moonstone Road before plunging back downwards to the city center as in years past.
Stages 3 and 4 are nothing out of the ordinary, and some variation on both have been used before. But, Stage 5 shakes up the traditional route by planting the individual time trial on a hilly route around Breckenridge instead of the climbing time trial in Vail the race has relied on in years past. After that, Stage 7 travels from Golden to Denver, likely taking in long and flat circuit laps in the city center as it did on the last stage of last year's race.
If you've noticed, I said nothing about Stage 6, and there's a good reason for that - we don't know what cities will host Stage 6 yet. Much like the organization did last year, the route of Stage 6 is open for fan suggestions. That's right, you can vote for which cities you'd like to host the start and finish of Stage 6. Throw your suggestion in the ring here - the only request is you keep the start and finish within 150 miles of Breckenridge and Denver.