Denver More top names in international cycling are joining the list of racers in this month’s inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which will stop in Steamboat Springs for two days.
Top U.S. riders Tom Danielson and Levi Leipheimer will join the Tour de France’s top three finishers for the seven-stage race. Italian Ivan Basso, a two-time Giro d’Italia winner, also will be part of the 128-rider field.
Team rosters will be finalized Thursday.
Tour de France winner Cadel Evans announced his plans to ride in the Pro Cycling Challenge last week. Andy and Frank Schleck, the Luxembourg brothers who took second and third, respectively, in this year’s Tour, also are confirmed.
The Schlecks are among the best racers in the world. Andy, 26, is a three-time Tour runner-up, and Frank, 31, won last year’s Tour de Suisse. They’re listed on the Team Leopard Trek roster that was submitted Monday, making for “a world-class field for a first-year race,” said race CEO and co-chairman Shawn Hunter.
This is the first time an American cycling race will feature the three reigning podium finishers from the Tour de France.
“For us, this is a great validation for our inaugural event to have the entire podium from the Tour,” Hunter said. “Given the roster commitments we’ve had this week, we believe this will be one of the most competitive fields to ever race on American soil.”
“We will end up seeing seven or eight of the top-10 finishers from the Tour,” Hunter said.
Danielson, a Boulder, native, took ninth at the Tour while racing for team champion Garmin-Cervilo.
“Tom is considered by a lot of people in the sport to be the favorite because he lives here and these are his roads,” Hunter said.
Leipheimer, of Santa Rosa, Calif., also is a superb climber. He’s the reigning champion of the Life Tim Fitness Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, the nation’s highest-altitude endurance test that has exploded in popularity since Lance Armstrong won it a few years ago.
One cyclist who isn’t expected to come to Colorado is three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who hurt a knee in the Tour last month and finished fifth. Race organizers haven’t heard from him.
“He certainly would add to the sizzle, but he may just take the month off and rest given the rough month he went through in France,” Hunter said.
Evans was a world champion mountain biker before focusing on road racing. He and the Schlecks finished in the top five in the hunt for the King of the Mountains jersey on the Tour, defining a skill that will come in handy in the diverse terrain of the Colorado race that ascends more than two miles in elevation.
The race through Colorado’s Front Range and Rocky Mountains begins with an ultra-fast prologue in which riders will descend from the Garden of the Gods at 50-plus mph and into Colorado Springs.
Stage 4, on Aug. 26, will have riders come from Avon to Steamboat. The next day riders leave Steamboat and head over Rabbit Ears Pass on the way to Breckenridge.
The race ends in downtown Denver on Aug. 28.