Racers and spectators alike rejoiced last Sunday as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge came to a rousing finish in downtown Denver, Colorado. The race, which involved every aspect of road racing, is the toughest cycling challenge in the United States and has been compared to be on par with the infamous Tour de France. With steep climbs, long flats, and high-speed drops, this race encompassed the ultimate challenge for a cyclist; maintain a steady pace while refusing to succumb to the unforgivable strain of the Rocky Mountains.
Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack was crowned the winner of the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge after a monumental race through the heart of Colorado, ending in Denver. According to Leipheimer, this race raises the bar for cycling in the United States and gives the American cycling community a taste of what road racing really can be.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge featured 16 worldwide teams, representing riders from countries around the world, each featuring their best and most talented riders. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge even garnered the support of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong who explained one his majors goals was to bring the great sport of competitive road-racing to the US.
Riders had to face some of the most challenging terrain in the world in the USA Pro race, climbing to altitudes of over 11,000 feet in some cases. These stages, covering 11 cities across the Front Range and the Rocky Mountains are among the most difficult road races in the world, comparing well to the Tour de France in the area of danger and risk. The greatest challenge that these riders had to face was the lack of oxygen. At 12,000 feet above sea level, the human body is only getting two-thirds of the oxygen in each breath as it would at sea level.
Faced with these extreme odds, 128 racers fought for position over the entirety of the 518-mile race, and even through the final laps of a spectator-packed downtown Denver the race was a close one, with the victorious Leipheimer winning by a mere 11 seconds overall over fellow American Christian VandeVeld.
In all, this was a great race to watch, and a great event for the community of Golden. Thousands of fans crowded Washington and 19th Street watching racers rocket past inches from them at speeds exceeding 25 miles an hour. The excitement in watching these incredible athletes perform these great feats was almost tangible.