The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge through the Rocky Mountains this month will feature the top three finishers from the Tour de France, an unprecedented feat for a US race.
Andy and Frank Schleck will join Tour winner Cadel Evans, an Australian who races for US-based BMC Racing Team, in the week-long Colorado race.
The Schlecks are among the best racers in the world. Andy, 26, is a three-time Tour runner-up, and Frank, 31, won last year’s Tour de Suisse.
The Luxembourg brothers are listed on the Team Leopard Trek roster that was submitted on Monday, making for “a world-class field for a first-year race,” race chief executive and co-chairman Shawn Hunter said.
This is the first time a US cycling race will feature the three reigning podium finishers from the Tour de France.
“For us, this is a great validation for our inaugural event to have the entire podium from the Tour,” Hunter said. “Given the roster commitments we’ve had this week, we believe this will be one of the most competitive fields to ever race on American soil.”
The field also will include the top US riders Tom Danielson and Levi Leipheimer, as well as Italian Ivan Basso, a two-time Giro d’Italia winner, when the 128-rider field is finalized today.
“We will end up seeing seven or eight of the top 10 finishers from the Tour,” Hunter said.
Danielson took ninth at the Tour while racing for team champion Garmin-Cervelo.
“Tom is considered by a lot of people in the sport to be the favorite because he lives here and these are his roads,” Hunter said.
Leipheimer is also a superb climber. He’s the reigning champion of the Lifetime Fitness Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, the nation’s highest-altitude endurance test that has exploded in popularity since Lance Armstrong won it a few years ago.
One cyclist who isn’t expected to come to Colorado is three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who hurt a knee in the Tour last month and finished fifth. Race organizers haven’t heard from him.
“He certainly would add to the sizzle, but he may just take the month off and rest given the rough month he went through in France,” Hunter said.
Evans was a world champion mountain biker before focusing on road racing. He and the Schlecks finished in the top five in the hunt for the King of the Mountains jersey on the Tour, defining a skill that will come in handy in the diverse terrain of the Colorado race that ascends more than 3.2km in elevation.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is Colorado’s first on the pro--cycling circuit since the Coors International Bicycle Classic ended its run in 1988. It will feature the two highest climbs in competitive international cycling history on the same stage on the third day, something the International Cycling Union had to sign off on.
The race through Colorado’s front range and the picturesque Rocky Mountains begins with an ultra-fast prologue in which riders will descend from the Garden of the Gods at more than 80kph and into Colorado Springs. The race ends in downtown Denver on Aug. 28.