Possible Quiznos Pro Challenge routes
Avon to Steamboat Springs
■ Google Maps suggested — Interstate 70 to Colorado Highway 131: 86 miles
■ Two-pass grinder — Colo. 131, Colorado Highway 134 and U.S. Highway 40: 119 miles
■ Coal mine swing — Colo. 131 to Twentymile: 94 miles
■ Stagecoach spur — Colo. 131 to Routt County Road 14: 86 miles
Steamboat to Breckenridge
■ Google Maps suggested — U.S. 40 to Colorado Highway 9: 103 miles
■ Straight south — Colo. 131 to I-70 to Colo. 9: 129 miles
■ Berthoud Pass — U.S. 40 to I-70 to Colo. 9: 166 miles
Steamboat Springs It came almost as an aside, a little nugget easy to pass over during an applause-heavy news conference that labeled Steamboat Springs “in” for August’s Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race.
“What’s the hardest way to get from Point A to Point B? That’s probably the route we’ll take,” Quiznos spokeswoman Ellen Kramer said.
That comment has had local cycling enthusiasts buzzing in the days and weeks since the Nov. 4 announcement. What route will the tour take?
One thing’s for sure: There are plenty of options.
The basics are out there. The inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge kicks off Aug. 22, a seven-stage cycling race across Colorado that figures to lure the world’s best racers — names like Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Mark Cavendish and Lance Armstrong — to the state.
Steamboat Springs was selected to take part in two of the seven stages. Riders will arrive in the Yampa River Valley on Aug. 26, riding from Avon for the fifth stage of the event. They’ll depart the next morning to end up in Breckenridge.
Even with the gauntlet Kramer threw down, there are only so many ways to get from Avon to Steamboat and Steamboat to Breckenridge.
The consensus is that riders will power down Interstate 70 about 14 miles, then up Colorado Highway 131 toward Steamboat.
That could make a great way to start a race.
“That’s a gorgeous ride,” avid local cyclist Katie Lindquist said. “Coming out of Wolcott is just so beautiful, if that’s the direction they go. You’re down at the river in Eagle, then climb up and away, and it’s just great.”
Just how far up Colo. 131 the peleton might make it without a detour is very much up for debate, however.
There are plenty of options popular with local riders. A swing down Colorado Highway 134 toward Kremmling could bring riders into town down U.S. Highway 40 and Rabbit Ears Pass. That route, which, on the way to Steamboat could be run in reverse of the 110-mile Tour de Steamboat course, would offer fierce challenges, including the climb up Gore Pass and another up the easier side of Rabbit Ears.
If riders continue heading up Colo. 131, there still are options. One that many locals said they’d like to see is a cut past the Twentymile Coal Mine, one of the most popular routes in the area.
That path would take riders through Oak Creek, after having passed through South Routt communities Yampa and Phippsburg.
Another potential variation would be to cut around Oak Creek and past Stagecoach Reservoir, trading the late-summer beauty of Oak Creek Canyon for the lake.
“You could run it past the coal mine, similar to the Steamboat Stage Race road course,” local rider Barkley Robinson said.
The Twentymile option could bring riders into Steamboat on 13th Street for a downtown finish. A continued straight shot up 131, meanwhile, could make for a finish at the base of the ski area, or also downtown.
Many of those same spurs could be used to get from Steamboat to Breckenridge, though it doesn’t seem likely the course would repeat on a road.
The most obvious challenge for the sixth day of the event, Steamboat’s second day, is a climb up the commanding Rabbit Ears Pass, a challenge that beats down local riders every summer.
“That day, I think they’ll take a pretty direct route because the mileage adds up pretty good,” Robinson said. “There are a few options once you get down by into Summit County.”
After Rabbit Ears, the road smooths out for most of the rest of the route.
No matter how they come, though, the buzz should continue to grow for the next nine months.
“It’s totally exciting,” Lindquist said. “I’ve only watched the big races on TV, so I think this will be awesome. It will be really cool to see the revival of this style of racing.”
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org