Pro cycling returns to Colorado! Sixteen men’s and 15 women’s teams will participate in the four-day event, which starts today and brings world-class bicycle racing back to Colorado following the demise of the USA Pro Challenge (2011-15). Men will race 313 miles over four days with 21,587 feet of climbing and women will race 70.4 miles over two days while climbing 5,890 feet.
The Colorado Classic isn’t just a bike race though, in an effort to develop a lasting presence which require profitability the race can be classified more as a festival. There will be a dizzying whirl of concerts and food accompanying the aptly named Velorama Colorado.
Velorama Colorado hopes it can keep people’s interest longer than the minute or so it takes the peloton to whizz past by offering musical acts like headliner Wilco is popular enough to have sprouted a music festival of its own in Massachusetts, The New Pornographers and Death Cab For Cutie will also be onsite. In addition, like any good music festival great food will be on site as well. Spud Nation will be there with delicious french fries along with 26 food trucks serving up just about every kind of grub you can imagine. Local tube-meat favorite Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dogs is one name to watch out for.
Riders to Watch Out For
A full slate of Colorado natives will be tackling some familiar terrain:
- Rally Racing’s Danny Pate (Colorado Springs)
- Trek-Segafredo’s Gregory Daniel (Denver)
- Trek-Segafredo’s Peter Stetina (Boulder)
- Cannondale-Drapac’s Alex Howes (Boulder)
- Cannondale-Drapac’s Taylor Phinney (Boulder)
Expected to contend for the overall Colorado Classic title are Americans Brent Brookwalter, Evan Huffman, Greg Daniel, and Robin Carptenter, along with Columbians Rigoberto Urban who had a great Tour de France, Janier Acevedo, and Daniel Jaramillo.
One name in particular to watch is American phenom Keegan Swirbul. Swirbul has had an interesting career and the Colorado Classic might just be his return to form. The 21-year old from El Jebel, Colorado, was thrust into the spotlight in 2012 after beating Lance Armstrong in Aspen, at age 17. Swirbul attacked on the final climb and crossed the line a full five minutes ahead of Armstrong, who finished second. Outside Magazine dubbed him “the next Armstrong.”
But Swirbul’s rapid progression was halted in 2015 during his second season with Axel Merckx’ development outfit. Plica syndrome in his left knee resulted in an operation and a late start to the season. Despite the injury, Swirbul took the 2015 U23 national road championship. Swirbul then jumped aboard the BMC team for 2016 overworked himself and ultimately succumbed to the pain. He needed another operation, physical rehabilitation, and a new approach towards training.
BMC Development didn’t re-sign Swirbul, but he persisted and in January he was offered a spot on the American squad Jelly Belly-Maxxis. This week will be crucial for him, he’s at the Colorado Classic, racing against WorldTour teams on home soil. And he’s once again beginning in a sport that’s presented him with so many obstacles in the past.
Thursday: Colorado Springs Circuit races, beginning and ending in downtown Colorado Springs. The women will race 38.4 miles (five laps) with 2,230 feet of climbing, beginning at 10 a.m.. The men will race 93.5 miles (six laps) starting at 1:10 p.m. with 5,934 feet of climbing.
Friday: Breckenridge circuit races, beginning and ending in downtown Breckenridge. Watch for the notoriously brutal ascent on Moonstone Road to break up the race and possibly pick a winner. The women will race 32 miles (five laps) starting at 11 a.m. with 3,660 feet of climbing. The men follow from 2 p.m. to 4:40 p.m., racing 64 miles (10 laps) with 7,320 feet of climbing.
Saturday: Denver-Peak to Peak Highway (out and back), beginning and ending in the Rino district. Men will be racing 81 miles with 6,733 feet of climbing, beginning at 1:30 p.m. and finishing at 4:40 p.m.
Sunday: Denver City Circuit with men racing 74.6 miles (10 laps), beginning at 12:20 p.m. and ending at 3 p.m., starting and finishing in the Rino.
Other events: A Velorama celebrating bikes, music and craft beer will be held in the Rino district Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Wilco will be the headline band Friday (8:30 p.m.) and Death Cab for Cutie on Saturday (8:30 p.m.). A women’s Pro-Am criterium will be held Friday (6:30 p.m.) with a men’s Pro-Am on Saturday (7:45 p.m.).
Rockies parking lot B and surrounding streets, Aug. 11-13. Passes to the festival range from $45 for a general admission day pass to $750 for a three-day VIP pass and are available via axs.com. veloramacolorado.com.