Stage 2 – Quick Stats
- 131.1 Miles
- 9,746 Feet Climbed
- (2) King of the Mountains: Cottonwood Pass – 12,126 Ft, Independence Pass – 12,095 Ft
- (2) Sprints : Almont, Buena Vista
- Start – 10 AM Gunnison
- Finish – 3:00 – 4:15PM Aspen
Stage two is known as the “Queen Stage,” as it is the crown jewel of the seven stages. This could be one of the most challenging stages of any world road race. Consider the distance of 131 miles, two12,000 foot mountain passes and a portion of the race following unpaved roads.
The race starts in Gunnison, on the north side of town near the intersection of Main Street and Spencer Ave. This is the beginning of the climb to Cottonwood Pass 48 miles away. On the way, there is a sprint line in the town of Almont, and occurs early in the race. The town is very small and parking limited. The parking along Hwy 135 just north of town maybe the best option, then walk or bike into town. Almont should also be a good observation point for the sprinters, being early in the stage.
After passing through Almont, the course continues on County Road 742 to Taylor Reservoir. At Taylor Reservoir area is wide open, with majestic views of the Rocky Mountains. Suggestions for watching the race include at the intersection of County Rd 55, there is a 90 degree turn, further up along the reservoir along a series of ‘S’ bends and at the sharp turn off to Cottonwood Pass Road, also known as County Road 209.
As most bike spectators know, high passes are fantastic places to watch a race. By the time the racers have turned onto Cottonwood Pass, they are on an unpaved road. This road is smooth hard packed dirt, delivering less traction than paved roads. If it rains, the surface will turn muddy, creating sloppy conditions and a dirty group of riders. Cottonwood pass is a windy road, and offers many good places, even it you can’t make it to the top. Note that the pass will be closed to vehicles at 3:00PM on August 23rd (yes the day before)! This is to allow crews to prepare the surface for the race.
The back side of the pass returns to pavement, allowing a safer but fast decent to Buena Vista. There are many extreme tight turns on the way down, and should make for a very exciting decent.
The approach to Buena Vista comes down Cottonwood Pass Road also tagged as State and County Road 306. At the intersection of State Highway 24, the course makes an aggressive turn north and the second sprint is encountered. Buena Vista is a wonderful town to await the race, with plenty of restaurants, shops and hotels if you plan to stay over the night before.
The race is back in climb mode after passing through Buena Vista, and experiences more stunning scenery consisting of gorges cut by the accompanying Arkansas River. This highway has frequent pull outs and side roads providing good parking and viewing opportunities. A few miles past the historic town of Granite is the next major turn onto State Hwy 82 heading west to Twin Lakes and Independence Pass.
Twin Lakes is a humongous man-made lake with picnic areas, and camping spots. Again, the views are wide open, offering a panorama of the Rocky Mountain peaks. Twin Lakes is a small town with a small store, couple of restaurants and lodging. It can fill quickly, arrive early to get parked and situated on the course.
The next treat is the climb up Independence Pass. This is expected to be very crowded as the folks in Aspen will flock to the top, and parking is very limited. If you are a strong biker, consider parking at the base of the pass and cycling up. Be sure to bring warm clothes and rain gear, as this is the time of day for the afternoon mountain storms. Note that the pass will close to vehicles at NOON the day of the race.
An incredible downhill into town of Aspen will follow. This section of road has tight turns, narrow sections and step drop offs. Position yourself in a safe location if you watch the race here, as any misjudged turn can send a racer off road.
In Aspen, the course will make multiple turns in the middle of old downtown, with the finish line near the intersection of Main and Galena Street. The last turn at Hopkins Ave will be exciting to watch being only 4 blocks from the finish.
For more information, read the Offical Stage 2 Spectator Guide
See the Offical Stage 2 Map