MEN'S STAGE BREAKDOWN
Stage 1 - 1:10 p.m. Thursday (approximate finish 4:40 p.m.), Colorado Springs. 93.5 miles, 5,934 feet of elevation gain. Professional road cycling returns to the Pikes Peak region for the first time since 2014. The route being used to christen the Colorado Classic is a familiar one for local fans and some of the riders, with all of the roads having been raced during the USA Pro Challenge. Cyclists will ride six 15.5-mile laps. Prime viewing spots include downtown - site of the start and the finish - Garden of the Gods and Old Colorado City. Expect multiple attacks early to spawn a breakaway. But a single rider or a small group likely won't be able to hold off a hard-charging peloton to the finish. That means the stage, and overall lead, will be decided by sprinters.
Stage 2 - 2 p.m. Friday (approx. finish 4:40 p.m.), Breckenridge. 64 miles, 7,320 feet of elevation gain. A stage race in Colorado wouldn't be complete without a trip to the high country. And with a starting elevation above 9,600 feet, this route certainly qualifies. The course is another throwback, having been featured four times in the Pro Challenge. In 2015, the steep climbs in and around the ski town proved decisive as Rohan Dennis won twice on his way to claiming the overall title. It's hard to imagine a scenario where it won't decide the champion again. One sinister ascent of Moonstone Road can wreak havoc on a field; this stage features 10. Expect carnage and extreme time gaps. The overall lead likely will change, and probably for the last time.
Stage 3 - 1:30 p.m. Saturday (approx. finish 4:40 p.m.), Denver. 81 miles, 6,733 feet of elevation gain. Organizers designed the event around fans, and that's why three of the stages feature multiple laps on relatively short layouts. This route is the exception, serving as the only true road race. Like so many Denver residents on weekends, the cyclists will depart the Mile High City and head west. There will be plenty of climbing with difficult miles logged on Peak to Peak Highway and through Golden Gate Canyon State Park. But the start line also serves as the finish line, meaning any effort spent climbing eventually will be rewarded with fast descents. Expect riders to be aggressive in the hills and even open decent leads, but this stage likely will belong to the sprinters.
Stage 4 - 12:20 p.m. Sunday (approx. finish 3 p.m.), Denver. 74.6 miles, 1,600 feet of elevation gain. For the 20th time in Colorado history, a champion will be crowned in a men's professional road cycling stage race. Past winners include Bernard Hinault, a five-time champion of the Tour de France, and Greg LeMond, who won the sport's biggest race three times. But this is the next era of racing in the state, and it carries different expectations. A sustainable future is the goal, and a big reason why the riders will share the weekend stage with national music acts and a festival boasting art, food and craft beer. While the final day is likely to be anticlimactic, it won't lack intensity. Expect high speeds and a sprint finish as the overall leader tries to stay upright and out of trouble.