The world's top cyclists will roar back into the Pikes Peak region next summer for two days of racing that will draw thousands of spectators and a global television audience.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will track across Colorado on Aug. 18-24, a schedule that includes a circuit race in Colorado Springs Aug. 21, in which athletes will race in several loops around the city. The next morning , Woodland Park will play host to the start of a race stage to Breckenridge.
Southern Colorado ski area Monarch Mountain is also getting in on the action. Organizers chose Monarch as the first mountaintop stage finish in the four years of the race, which will occur Aug. 20 with a stage race from Gunnison and a party at the ski area.
The host cities were announced Monday, to the delight of local organizers, who hosted events in 2011 and 2012 but were left out of the 2013 race.
"It made great sense for us to return. We think it's a great cycling community," race CEO Shawn Hunter said. "It's important to us to work with one of the largest cities in the state of Colorado. All the ingredients are there for success and we're very happy to be coming back."
Hunter said going elsewhere in 2013 was not a slight to the area; organizers simply wanted to showcase other parts of the state. The 2013 race was mostly in northern Colorado.
"We're thrilled," said Meredith Vaughan, part of the organizing committee in Colorado Springs and president of advertising and public relations agency Vladimir Jones. "It's a great thing for a city that is so focused on sports to have one of the best sporting events in the state come back."
The exact route of the race has not been set, but Hunter said fans can expect three or four laps on a 25-mile course that will run by famous landmarks Garden of the Gods and The Broadmoor, as well as downtown, though he said it is too soon to say if there will be a downtown finish and celebration as in the past.
"We know we want to be in the Springs. We know we want to have a circuit, but exactly where we start and finish will be determined over the next 100 days," Hunter said.
For Woodland Park, it will be the most racing excitement since riders competed in a sprint here on the way to Colorado Springs in 2012. Hunter said the city government was happy to work with the race and there was "passion in the community" for the event.
For the first time, organizers will let fans pick what direction the final stage will take. Visitors to prochallenge.com/PickStage7 can decide from four courses: a Denver circuit race; Golden to Denver; Boulder to Denver; or Boulder to Golden.
For Monarch Mountain, a small area popular with Colorado Springs skiers, getting the first mountaintop finish in the race's history was a coup, considering how many other ski resorts are along the route.
"We happen to be at the right place," said Monarch marketing manager Greg Ralph. He said Monarch will host a party, with ample camping in the surrounding national forest, that is sure to be "a crazy scene."
Organizers will work with the local organizing committee to come up with the route for the Colorado Springs circuit. While Colorado Springs' bid to host a stage was snubbed for 2013, there appear to be no hurt feelings.
"We have a great relationship with the race owners. This is an event we'd like to see bounce around. We'd like to have a Colorado Springs presence as much as possible, but we think it's great it celebrates the entire state," Vaughan said.
Said Hunter, "We took the year off in 2013, but we always promised we would return and now that's going to happen in 2014 and I'm sure it will happen again."