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Will Boulder’s Flagstaff climb become the UPCC’s Alpe d’Huez?

December 13, 2011

At the Tossa Restaurant in Boulder last night, Tom Danielson said the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UPCC), “needs a mountain-top finish, and we need it on Flagstaff.” He mentioned several reasons why a finish on this popular and difficult ascent in Boulder would please everyone, including the convenient Starbuck’s location at the bottom of the climb.

Danielson likes his coffee, but he doesn’t need any caffeine. He’s already totally buzzed by what lies ahead next August.

Special menu at Tossa in honor of Boulder's selection and Tom Danielson

Danielson, who finished fourth in the UPCC in 2011 and rides for Team Garmin-Cervélo, appeared at Tossa to mingle with fans. He also joined Boulder local organizing committee (LOC) members and city and UPCC officials at the restaurant to celebrate Boulder’s first-time selection as a UPCC host city.

The next to last stage of the 2012 race ends in Boulder on August 25th, but the finish location hasn’t been decided.

Racing from Durango to Boulder

The UPCC will begin in Durango on August 20th. Danielson attended Fort Lewis College there, and he lived in Durango before moving to Boulder. He’s ecstatic about racing in these two places he’s called home, and at Tossa jokingly referred to the selection of both cities to host the UPCC as “part of my plan to win” in 2012. If he couldn’t win in 2012, he said, “then maybe the next year the race will have to stop in Connecticut.” Danielson grew up in East Lyme, Connecticut.

Tom Danielson autographing photos at Tossa (photo by Mary Topping)

The stage ending in Boulder will depart from Golden. Golden hosted the start of the final stage in the 2011 UPCC. Extraordinary attendance at the Golden start prompted many — even experienced guys in the pro peloton — to describe the crowds that morning as rivaling any they had seen while racing around the world, even at the Tour de France.

“Golden to Boulder is going to be scary big,” race CEO and co-chairman Shawn Hunter said, at Tossa. He’s betting it might be the most well attended stage of the 2012 race, possibly exceeding the final day’s time trial in Denver.

But Hunter expects large crowds in Durango on stage 1, too. “I think the crowds in Durango will astound everyone,” he said. Durango’s cycling culture runs deep across many of the sport’s disciplines. Danielson said, “You have people road biking, mountain biking, cyclocross, track racing; there’s a nice BMX community. Everyone down there is passionate about cycling. It will be an insane crowd.”

Fort Lewis College in Durango, bird's eye view

Danielson has talked to the committee in Durango and would enjoy a start there that incorporates his alma mater. Hunter mentioned the UPCC considered compelling bids from both Grand Junction and Durango. Conversations with Danielson about starting the race in Durango helped sway the UPCC to select it over Grand Junction as the overall start of the 2012 event.

Why the race needs Flagstaff

Will Danielson, as well as many Boulderites and other pro-cycling fans, get their wish for a Flagstaff finish? When asked about the chances for ending the stage there versus downtown, Barry Siff, co-chair of the Boulder LOC, said the final decision lies with the race organization. “We’d love to see a Flagstaff finish, but it’s all up for discussion,” Siff said. “In January, February, we’ll look at routes with the race organization. We’ll need to involve downtown Boulder for sure. No matter where it ends, Boulder will come out in droves.” Siff’s co-chair on the LOC is Andrew Shoemaker. Shoemaker owns a law firm in Boulder. Siff has experience in sports event organization through 5430 Sports which he previously owned.

Barry Siff and Andrew Shoemaker, Boulder LOC co-chairs

Danielson said at Tossa that Flagstaff is one of the hardest climbs he’s ever ridden. He described the climb as unique in the state. Unlike most Colorado roads which rise gradually, Flagstaff challenges riders with grade changes and a degree of steepness at the bottom and top other climbs don’t offer. Average gradient for the Flagstaff climb can vary depending on start and end points; one rider pegs it at 8.5% with a maximum grade of almost 13%.

Another interview for Danielson at Tossa, while a young fan waits for a dream to come true

The UPCC, “needs a stage finish that’s our Alpe d’Huez, the one climb that everyone associates with the race and wants to keep coming back to see, like Brasstown Bald in Tour de Georgia. That’s what makes memories for fans, spectators, sponsors,” Danielson said. He believes the entire peloton would be disappointed if there isn’t a mountain-top finish. Compared to ending a stage after a descent, he said, “We all love to finish on top of a mountain.”

The crowds along Flagstaff will exceed those attending a flatter finish because, Danielson said, “Everyone knows a mountain-top finish will be a defining moment in the race. I just get goosebumps thinking about how many people will be on the side of that road.”

And what could they be talking about? Tom Danielson, and UPCC's Rick Cord & Shawn Hunter (l to r) at Tossa

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