Stage 1 Quick Stats
- 99.4 Miles
- 8,020 Feet Total Climb
- 11,312 Feet – highest point; Monarch Pass
- 1 King of the Hill
- 2 Sprints
- Starts: 11:45AM
- Finish: 3:15 – 4:45P
Stage 1 starting in Salida immediately throws the racers in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge into a long climb lasting 26 miles to the climax of Monarch Pass. This stretch of road presents many great viewing opportunities. First, the riders will be at a slower pace as they dig into the climb. Second, the diversion into a curvy and narrow county road offers a close-in experience as the riders’ zig-zag up the climb near Pagosa Springs, and before the final struggle up Monarch Pass.
The starting line is just west of downtown Salida on Airport Road. The route is relatively straight heading on County Road 140, which parallels the highway 50. At about 3 miles, the race passes ½ mile north of Pagosa Springs, continuing on County Road 140. There are two 90 degree turns at about 6 miles, and then the road turns windy for the first ‘teaser’ climb to 8600 feet. After the first quick climb, the road delivers a quick 3 mile downhill, where it joins Highway 50 for the climb up Monarch Pass. County Road 140 road should prove exciting as the riders are fresh out, climbing and maneuvering this challenging section. It may offer smaller crowds, as Monarch Pass is expected to attract larger gatherings of spectators.
From the entry of Hwy 50, the big climb starts to the top of Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet and 13 miles away. This is also the first King of the Hill award where the climbers will compete for the first KOM points. If you’re goal for the day is to watch from the pass, get on the road early and claim your spot. Monarch may be closed up to 2 hours before the race arrives. Remember that you are now in mountain weather and plan for cold mornings and quick storms in the afternoon. Morning temperatures in the high 30’s are not unusual.
Some other parking and camping tips: If highway 50 is jammed with parked cars, try county road 233 runs that runs parallel to highway 50 and is 3 miles from the pass. County road 237 is one mile from the pass. Either of these could be a good alternative for parking. Once you find a spot, ride a bike or hike to the pass.
After the Monarch hill climb, it’s a fast 10 mile downhill before leveling out to a long gradual descent to Gunnison. The stage goes right through the middle of Gunnison, making a 90 degree turn at the intersection of Tomichi Avenue and North Main Street. These sharp turns are great locations for watching the racers bank hard as they whip north to Crested Butte. There will also be a sprint line in the middle of town.
The 35 mile route to Crested Butte on Hwy 135 mostly straight and pushes back with a very gradual uphill. There is a gain of 1200 feet upon reaching the town of Crested Butte. But, it’s not over yet. After the racers compete on the second sprint of the day thought the historic downtown, the course challenges the riders to one last steep climb toward the ski area of Mt Crested Butte just a few miles away. The finale on the mountain is the place to be to witness the competitiveness of an uphill finish. If you don’t make it to the hill, next best place is to find a comfortable spot along one of the (4) 90 degree turns that the racers will be negotiating through Crested Butte.
Be sure to read the Official Stage 1 Spectator Guide – This guide provides information on start times, estimated times of arrival and strategy for following the stage.
Also, stay current on road closures at the UPCC page on http://cotrip.org/content/usapcc/, operated by the Colorado Department of Transportation.