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Ramsey: Pikes Peak would be an ideal finish for USA Pro Challenge cycling race

August 25, 2013 Updated: August 26, 2013 at 10:26 am
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photo - BMC Rcing Team's Tejay van Garderen, back, of Aspen, Colo., tosses a bouquet to the crowd after being awarded the overall title in the USA Pro Challenge cycling race on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, through downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
BMC Rcing Team's Tejay van Garderen, back, of Aspen, Colo., tosses a bouquet to the crowd after being awarded the overall title in the USA Pro Challenge cycling race on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, through downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

DENVER - Tom Danielson wants cycling fans to enjoy a mountaintop experience.

Literally.

"People love mountains," Danielson said a few minutes after finishing third in the USA Pro Challenge on Sunday. "I think it would be appropriate to finish on top of some nasty mountain."

Great idea, Tom, and I have the ideal mountain to offer:

Pikes Peak.

I believe placing the race's final finish line - the end of day seven - at the top of Pikes Peak would be a superb idea, but cycling Challenge's CEO Shawn Hunter all but said downtown Denver will serve as the forever finish line.

He is, though, enthusiastic about utilizing the top of America's Mountain as the finish line for a stage race.

There are questions about Pikes Peak. The first question is the most depressing one. Highway 24, which almost certainly would be part of the race route, winds extremely close to the Waldo Canyon burn scar. It might take a few more years for the scar to heal.

The second question is the extreme altitude. Pikes Peak towers 14,115 feet. Hunter savors the idea of watching cyclists fighting for their breath as they near the summit.

"It's punishing," he said with a slightly sinister smile.

But European cyclists might not be so enthusiastic about the idea. They might see the Pikes Peak stage on the schedule and decide to remain home.

Hunter sees it differently. He believes Europeans will arrive in Colorado early to train, grow accustomed to the limited oxygen and then welcome an extreme altitude challenge.

There's no doubt that leaders in the Colorado Springs area want the Challenge to return after missing out on this year following the first two years of stages. A 2014 return is probable but not certain.

Bob Cope is the principal analyst in economic vitality for Colorado Springs. He remembers eating dinner in downtown Colorado Springs last August after the Cycling Challenge.

"You just saw a lot of excitement, a lot of energy," Cope said. "The people and the excitement stayed there all evening."

Cope is hopeful the Challenge will return to Colorado Springs in 2014. He's studied the economic benefits of the race.

"I don't see any negatives to it whatsoever," Cope said. "It's a win-win. I don't see any drawbacks, whatsoever."

I don't either. While walking through the crowd in downtown Denver at Sunday's finale, I once again enjoyed the Challenge's lovably bizarre charm.

I walked past a couple and their two children. All four were wearing masks and carrying signs that read "Chemicals are no fun." I saw a man in a flowing red cape and horns as he struggled - and failed - to deliver a strong impersonation of Satan. The cycling Challenge is a goofy mixture of a sporting event and Halloween.

Pikes Peak would serve as a superlative destination in the Challenge. Thousands would gather, some to watch the racing and others to watch the spectators running around in bizarre get-ups.

"All of us would love to see a mountaintop finish," Hunter said.

And Pikes Peak offers the ideal mountaintop.

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Twitter: @davidramz

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