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Fast, difficult, wet(?) conditions expected for Thursday's Colorado Classic cycling race

August 9, 2017 Updated: August 10, 2017 at 8:04 am
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Allie Dragoo, left, and other riders race around a tight corner Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015, during the final stage of the Women's USA Pro Challenge in Golden, Colo. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Fast and difficult.

That's how several cyclists described the road course that awaits Thursday in Stage 1 of the inaugural Colorado Classic.

Oh, and scenic. Very scenic.

When a four-day stage race starts in Colorado Springs and passes through Garden of the Gods, it's hard not to take notice.

"It's beautiful," said Allie Dragoo, among the top women in town to compete.

"It's righteous," noted Kiel Reijnen, one of the top sprinters in the men's field.

Just as it does with tourists on a daily basis, Garden of the Gods earned plenty of praise Wednesday afternoon during a press conference at USA Cycling to kick off the new event.

"We ride through Garden of the Gods, which is iconic Colorado Springs scenery," gushed Taylor Phinney, a Boulder native who last month raced in the Tour de France. "And as a human who appreciates nature, I'm excited about that."

There was plenty of excitement in the room, as organizers and riders geared up for the latest chapter in Colorado's rich history with the sport. It's been two years since the last edition of the USA Pro Challenge, and everyone involved this time around hopes to build a race that's sustainable.

That effort starts in the Springs, with a stop Friday in Breckenridge before a full weekend of racing in Denver, site of an accompanying music festival that will feature national acts.

Stage 1 is expected to present a tough test for the cyclists, with short, steep climbs in Garden of the Gods followed by a fairly quick track into downtown.

"It's just gonna be fast and hard so it's all about just suffering well, making the front group, using your teammates where they need to be used and getting to that finish line in good position," Dragoo said.

Added Tayler Wiles: "I think it's gonna be one where you're warmed up and it's just gonna be attacks from the beginning. It will be a showdown."

Phinney is anticipating something similar in the men's race, with perhaps a bit of precipitation to contend with as well. While he wouldn't go as far as to say that he hopes it rains, count him among the riders who are ready for anything.

"The more difficult the conditions are, the more guys kind of give up before the race even starts," he said. "And the less guys that are in the race, the better that is for people who want to win."

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