Top cycling teams set to compete in budding Colorado race
Levi Leipheimer, right, will lead another impressive field at the USA Pro Challenge in August. (CNN)
DENVER — The 2012 USA Pro Challenge will feature the 2011 Tour de France champion and many others fresh off Olympic appearances when it returns to Colorado for the second time in late August.
The race, which will take place from Aug. 20-26 — eight days after the completion of the Summer Olympic Games in London — confirmed the 16 teams that will be competing in the Colorado cycling race Wednesday. Six of the teams in attendance are UCI ProTour teams — the highest classification of professional cycling teams.
Among the individuals in the field is 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans of Australia and Levi Leipheimer, a Team USA Olympic team member as well as the reigning champion of USA Pro Challenge and Tour de Suisse.
Evans is currently in second place overall in this year’s Tour de France, which was in its 10th stage Wednesday.
In its inaugural running a year ago, USA Pro Challenge featured the entire podium from the Tour de France. Over 1 million spectators turned out for the event, which features a 683-mile course with more than 42,000 feet of vertical climbing that begins in Durango and ends in Denver.
“The course and the mountains were beautiful, but incredibly challenging, and I can’t wait to take them on again,” Evans told the Associated Press. “I knew last August that I wanted to return to the race.”
Race organizers expect the spectator turnout could double this year. NBC and its new NBC Sports Network will carry the race live on national T.V.
“We had such an overwhelmingly positive response that it was difficult to narrow it down to 16 teams for the 2012 edition,” Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge, said. “The USA Pro Challenge is building a reputation for having the highest caliber teams in the world.”
Frank Schleck will also take part in this year’s race. A year ago, Schleck was third in the Tour de France but was part of a large crash in the sixth stage of this year’s race that will likely prevent him from reaching the podium again.
International favorites Jens Voigt of Germany, who has worn the yellow jersey three times at the Tour de France, and George Hincapie of the U.S., who is currently participating in a record 17th Tour de France, will also be among the USA Pro Challenge field.
Boulder cyclist Tim Duggan, who will be a member of the U.S. Olympic road race team, will also be in the field, as will fellow American Chris Horner, who finished 11th in the recently-completed eighth stage of the Tour de France — just behind Schleck.
Another Boulder cyclist, Tejay van Garderen, who recently regained the Tour de France’s white jersey awarded to the best young cyclist Monday after finishing fourth in the ninth stage, was not on the list of participants the USA Pro Challenge released.
Fellow Boulderite Taylor Phinney, another Team USA Olympic team member, was also not on the list.