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From Telluride to Denver by eight mountain passes

Walter Morales Pedraza from Columbia was the first to summit Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet) in 2011. Riders must negotiate nearly 14 miles of dirt road on Cottonwood Pass. Enlarge photo

Nathan Bilow / Associated Press file photo

Walter Morales Pedraza from Columbia was the first to summit Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet) in 2011. Riders must negotiate nearly 14 miles of dirt road on Cottonwood Pass.

Durango to Telluride is only the beginning for the cyclists in the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

There still will be six stages and 557.4 miles to go to the finish in Denver on Sunday, Aug. 26. That’s one more stage than the inaugural 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge offered.

Here’s a look at the rest of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge:

Stage 2

Tuesday, Aug. 21, Montrose to Crested Butte: The 99-mile stage will start with a new section from Montrose east over Cerro Summit and Blue Mesa Summit to Gunnison, location of the stage’s first Sprint Line.

Then cyclists will retrace the 2011 route up the highway from Gunnison to Crested Butte before the grueling uphill finish at Mount Crested Butte.

First, cyclists will contest the day’s second Sprint Line in historic downtown Crested Butte.

A two-mile climb to the finish at the ski resort will close the stage – the key stage last year where eventual winner Levi Leipheimer won and took the leader’s jersey.

Stage 3

Wednesday, Aug. 22, Gunnison to Aspen: Tabbed the Silver Queen Stage with its double challenge of Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass, the route spans 130.5 grueling miles – with lots and lots of climbing.

From Gunnison, the first Sprint Line is in the tiny community of Almont.

Then, cyclists will contest the first King of the Mountain near Taylor Park Reservoir, where the cyclists will leave the pavement again this year.

Nearly 14 miles of dirt and gravel over Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet) are next as cyclists pedal to the highest point of the week.

After the twisting descent into Buena Vista, the pack will turn north on U.S. Highway 24 to Twin Lakes, where they will turn for the long climb up Independence Pass (12,095 feet).

The rapid descent of Independence Pass will take riders to the finish in downtown Aspen, where George Hincapie won the stage in 2011.

A women’s pro race will finish in Aspen before the finishing of the USA Pro Cycling State.

Stage 4

Thursday, Aug. 23, Aspen to Beaver Creek: Cyclists will confront an elevation test in Stage 4, the 97.2-mile run from Aspen to Beaver Creek (near Vail). Most of the stage will be above 9,000 feet. And it will start with a grueling climb right out of Aspen back up Independence Pass.

After the early climb, the cyclists will descend the other side of Independence Pass before racing to a Sprint Line in downtown Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,152 feet.

After climbing to the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass (10,424 feet), the course will descend into Minturn by way of Battle Mountain on a recently repaired U.S. Highway 24.. A final climb up to Beaver Creek resort will close the stage.

Stage 5

Friday, Aug. 24, Breckenridge to Colorado Springs: Hoosier Pass (11,542) will greet the riders in the fifth stage, a 117.9-mile pull to Colorado Springs.

The riders will descend to Fairplay and work their way to a Sprint Line in Woodland Park, where the riders are expected to hit the highest speeds of the race. They’ll also pass by the devastation of the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs. The finish awaits in downtown Colorado Springs after a trip through Garden of the Gods.

And there will be three finishing circuits in downtown Colorado Springs to showcase the field.

Stage 6

Saturday, Aug. 25, Golden to Boulder: Colorado’s classic climbs will take the stage in Stage 6, a 103.3-mile route that starts in Golden and finishes outside Boulder on Flagstaff Mountain.

The day’s first Sprint Line will be in downtown Boulder near Pearl Street Mall.

The first King of the Mountain competition will be at Nederland, up Colorado Highway 119.

After flashing along the famed Peak to Peak Highway, the cyclists will ride down to Lyons.

The classic climbs up Lefthand Canyon and Lee Hill Road will be next before the riders head back to downtown Boulder.

A final, dramatic climb up Flagstaff Mountain to the finish at Sunrise Amphitheater will close the penultimate stage.

Stage 7

Sunday, Aug. 26, downtown Denver: The USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s Race of Truth will wrap up the 2012 tour. A 19.5-mile individual time trial in Denver will determine the final finish order.

The course will be the same as last year’s closing circuit around the State Capitol and Civic Center Park.

dstrode@durangoherald.com

Cyclists will ride past state Capitol building in Denver on the final stage of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. But this year, the Denver stage will be an individual time trial. Enlarge photo

Dale Strode/Durango Herald file photo

Cyclists will ride past state Capitol building in Denver on the final stage of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. But this year, the Denver stage will be an individual time trial.

In the 2011 Pro Challenge, the Garden of the Gods area near Colorado Springs served as the start for the opening prologue. The area is again part of this year’s Challenge. Enlarge photo

JOHN PIERCE/USPCC /PhotoSport International

In the 2011 Pro Challenge, the Garden of the Gods area near Colorado Springs served as the start for the opening prologue. The area is again part of this year’s Challenge.