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This year, women cyclists will join men on the awards podium of the USA Pro Challenge. —Brett Lange (Pro Challenge)

With the Women’s USA Pro Challenge, the Ladies Are Back

For the first time in 27 years, the world's top female cyclists will share Colorado's roads with the men at a major pro race. Here's where you can catch the action. 

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In the 1980s, the Coors International Bicycle Classic was America’s answer to the Tour de France. It featured the crème de la crème of the U.S. cycling world, and from its inception in 1975 as the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic, the race grew in length from three days to two weeks, drew celebrity fans like Robin Williams and President Gerald Ford, and inspired countless American youths to pursue the sport. It also had a reputation for being groundbreaking (it was the premier women’s cycling event in the world, bar none, and inspired the Tour de France to add a women’s race) and a little unpredictable (at the ’82 Classic, horses broke through a fence adjacent to the course and stampeded behind a group of frightened cyclists).

Most notably, perhaps, it began the careers of dozens of American cycling stars—male and female—including Boulder residents Connie Carpenter (women’s race winner in ’77, ’81 and ’82, and an Olympic gold medalist) and Davis Phinney (men’s race winner in ’88), who later married.

When the final Coors Classic was held in 1988, it was the last time in Colorado that men and women cyclists shared a road race. This year, with the much-anticipated addition of a women’s race to the USA Pro Challenge, that changes. Riders of both sexes will be back on the winding mountain roads of Colorado for one of the most important pro cycling races in the U.S. Sean Petty, race director for the Women’s USA Pro Challenge, says that the addition of a women’s race was “the hope and plan from day one,” but that organizers wanted to be sure it happened when it could be properly supported and sustained. “The host cities of Breckenridge, Loveland, Fort Collins and Golden really embraced the addition of the women’s race,” Petty says.

(Read an insider’s look at the USA Pro Challenge)

The women’s race brings a new generation of female cyclists to Colorado, including two-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion in the Time Trial, Kristin Armstrong. Colorado native Mara Abbott, two-time winner of the Giro Rosa (the women’s section of the Giro d’Italia race), will also be a star to watch, alongside Jasmin Glaesser, Hannah Barnes, Andrea Dvorak, Alison Tetrick, and many others.

Want to catch history in action? Petty says there are plenty of good places to catch a peek during the race, which runs from August 21 to 23 and snakes from Breckenridge to Loveland, Ft. Collins, and Golden. Here are some suggestions on where to watch:

STAGE 1: Breckenridge Time Trial (Friday, August 21)

Join crowds of spectators on Moonstone Road to watch cyclists battle their way up an arduous climb during this 8.5-mile time trail. Or, if you prefer to cheer cyclists toward the finish line, station yourself closer to the end of the course, where riders will catch some serious speed as they head down Boreas Pass.

STAGE 2: Loveland to Ft. Collins (Saturday, August 22)

“The finish in Fort Collins will be fast and exciting,” Petty says, and not one to miss. Throughout this day’s race, cyclists will face 58 grueling miles through Buckhorn and Rist Canyons. With both ascents and flat sprints, the day promises to be one of the most competitive, pitting the endurance climbers with the field sprinters. Be at the finish to see who pulls it off.

STAGE 3: Golden Circuit (Sunday, August 23)

In the race’s final leg, the women will test their skills on a short 1.4-mile circuit, which Petty says promises to be a “very fast and exciting racing,” since each lap will take only a few minutes. Watch as the fastest women in the world vie for a spot at the front of the pack and do your best not to get dizzy.

(Your Guide to the 2015 USA Pro Cycling Challenge)

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