The Grand Depart: Where to watch

All around Durango... then to Telluride

RadioShack escorted Levi Leipheimer to victory in the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Leipheimer is riding for Omega Pharma this year. Enlarge photo

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

RadioShack escorted Levi Leipheimer to victory in the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Leipheimer is riding for Omega Pharma this year.

Stage 1 of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge is here.

Planning is over; preparations are complete; racers are ready.

Are you?

With the inaugural stage of the 2012 Colorado professional cycling stage race set to take off from downtown Durango at 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 20, cycling fans are making their own race plans – like where to watch, when to watch and whom to watch.

Spectators in Durango will have multiple opportunities to watch the international field of top cyclists – up close.

And downtown will be the place to be. There will be two peloton parade laps along Durango’s Main Avenue and through the adjacent residential neighborhood after the 10 a.m. start to the stage.

There will be a Monday morning climb up the legendary Front Hill to Fort Lewis College to get the cyclists warmed up for the first Sprint Line payout of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The first cash bonuses for the 2012 tour will be awarded on Durango’s Main Avenue.

But there’s more.

The cyclists also will circumnavigate Rim Drive around FLC campus. They’ll pedal around Hillcrest Golf Club (on new pavement).

They’ll drop back down into Durango on North College Drive before working their way out of town to the south, taking County Road 210 up to Lake Nighthorse.

Then, it’s down Wildcat Canyon Road to U.S. Highway 160 for the climb to Hesperus – for the first King of the Mountain competition at the top of Hesperus Hill.

Then, it’s on to Mancos, Dolores, Stoner, Rico, Ophir and – 125 miles later – the finish line in Telluride.

That’s Stage 1.

But there’s more.

Viewing options in Durango will start at the start – Eighth and Main.

The entire peloton will be on display before the 10 a.m. starting gun.

Once they start rolling, the two parade laps will begin with viewing all along the route.

From Eighth and Main, the cyclists will ride south on Main to Fifth Street, then turn up Fifth Street by the train station to Third Avenue, Durango’s boulevard.

The cyclists will ride Third Avenue north all the way to 12th Street, where they will turn down to Main Avenue to complete the parade loop.

After two full loops downtown, defending champion Levi Leipheimer and the cyclists will ride down Main, turn up Fifth to Third and then turn north on College Drive, where the actual racing will begin.

They will race up College Drive to Eighth Avenue, where they will turn left. That will take the peloton of the world’s top cyclists up the famed Front Hill to Fort Lewis College, a legendary climb in Durango’s lengthy cycling history.

Once on campus, the cyclists will pedal around Rim Drive and around Hillcrest Golf Club to Goeglein Gulch Road.

They’ll turn north and follow North College Drive down the hill to Florida Road. From Florida Road, it’s on to Third Avenue for a left turn.

Down East Third Avenue, they’ll take a right on 12th Street for one block, then left on Main Avenue for the first Sprint Line payoff.

The cyclists will leave Main this time by turning right on College Drive and then left on Camino del Rio where they will pedal to County Road 210, the road to Lake Nighthorse.

After the climb past the lake, the cyclists will go right on Wildcat Canyon Road (County Road 141) back down the hill to U.S. Highway 160.

Then it’s a left turn and up the hill to Hesperus, on to Mancos, north to Dolores, on up Lizard Head Pass and down to the finish of Stage 1 in downtown Telluride.

That’s 125 miles to kick off the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

But there’s more.

“I think the route highlights everything that is Durango cycling,” said Dave Hagen, co-chairman of the technical committee for the Durango stage and director of the FLC cycling program.

“And Durango will have exposure on television every day with the start here,” Hagen said.

“The crowds watching the climb up the Front Hill should be spectacular,” he said, anticipating Durango’s customary spirited turnout for cycling events.

“Going up to the college ... going up the Front Hill, you’ve got to do that,” said Hagen, who has produced multiple cycling events in Durango’s downtown core.

While many will opt to watch the cyclists as they tour downtown Durango and FLC, other spectators are expected to gather along the route.

High-point locations where spectators can watch the cyclists make an extended climb were popular last year during the first USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

That means locations up near Lake Nighthorse and at the top of Hesperus Hill will make good viewing locations.

En route to Mancos, one big vantage point will be at Madden Peak Road.

Between Mancos and Dolores, several long-range views are available of the race course. Then, of course, the climb up Lizard Head Pass will attract race fans.

The finish in downtown Telluride will be the last best viewing locale.

But there’s more.

In conjunction with the event, large video screens will be around the start venue at Eighth Street and Main Avenue, and at Buckley Park.

Race spectators, after watching the racers spin by in person, can watch the rest of the race on jumbo video screens at the cycling expo at Buckley Park.

That’s right across the street from The Durango Herald.

All eyes in downtown Durango will be on Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Monday, Aug. 20. The race will start at 10 a.m. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald file photo

All eyes in downtown Durango will be on Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Monday, Aug. 20. The race will start at 10 a.m.