Gorassini Giancarlo/MCT Select
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge got a coup this week when the top three riders from this month’s Tour de France confirmed their plans to ride in next month’s inaugural stage race through Colorado. Andy Schleck, left, of team Leopard-Trek, will train in Steamboat Springs in the week leading up to the race. Cadel Evans, center, won the Tour de France, with Andy Schleck’s brother, Frank Schleck, right, finishing third.
The top three finishers in the Tour de France will compete in next month’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and one of them will stay and train in Steamboat Springs in the week leading up to the inaugural stage race.
Trek Bicycle team liaison and former Steamboat resident Ben Coates confirmed early Friday that Andy and Frank Schleck will compete in the seven-stage race, which includes a stage that ends in Steamboat and one that begins in Steamboat.
On Thursday, The Denver Post confirmed that Tour de France winner Cadel Evans also will ride in the Pro Cycling Challenge. It will be the first time the top three finishers in the Tour de France competed in an American bike race.
Andy Schleck, who finished second in the tour and was part of one of the most memorable stages in recent Tour de France history, also will spend a week leading up to the Pro Cycling Challenge training and staying with Coates in Steamboat. Frank is staying in Europe to spend time with his family, Coates said.
In the 19th stage of the Tour de France, Andy Schleck took the yellow jersey during the brutal climb up Alpe d’Huez, making up a 15-second deficit. In the next stage, Evans — better at time trials and needing to make up more than a minute — made up 2 1/2 minutes.
Still, both Schleck brothers are considered among the best cyclists in the world. Andy has finished second in the Tour de France three years in a row. Frank has finished in the top five of the Tour three times.
Coates, the former Trek liaison to Lance Armstrong, owns a house here. Coates said Andy Schleck has an appearance that he had to do and didn’t want to fly back to Europe prior to the start of the Pro Challenge. Thus the week of training in Steamboat.
“He’s just trusting me,” Coates said. “I told him (the road cycling) is good and at high altitude. He wants to ride his bike and fish.”
The 518-mile Pro Cycling Challenge begins Aug. 22 and continues through Aug. 28.
The ride starts with a prologue in Colorado Springs and will see stages 4 and 5 come through Steamboat.
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.
“It’s a first-year race so it’s the support from the community that we need,” Coates said. “The race is organized by a company very adept at doing so. The person in charge has a long history in race organization. Opportunities are there. It should be a great race.”
Pro Cycling Challenge officials have been tight-lipped about specific cyclists scheduled to compete in their race. A list of participating teams has been made public and includes the Schleck brothers’ Leopard-Trek squad and Evans’ American-based CMC team. A total of 16 eight-man teams will compete in the Pro Cycling Challenge. Complete team rosters will be announced next week.
The stage race is Colorado’s first on the pro cycling circuit since the Coors International Bicycle Classic ended its run in 1988. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will feature the two highest climbs in competitive international cycling history on the same stage on the third day, something the International Cycling Union had to sign off on.