Schleck brothers commit to Colorado race ' again

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenAugust 2, 2011
For the second time in recent months, organizers announced that Andy and Fränk Schleck will race in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Fränk and Andy Schleck

Back in March, race officials said the Schleck brothers would compete in the race but last week a spokeswoman for the event created some doubt saying only that there was "a good chance" the Luxembourg luminaries would ride. Their participation was confirmed again this week.

The reconfirmation means that all three Tour de France podium finishers are set to be at the starting line for the inaugural race, Aug. 22-28, which will become the first time riders have all competed in a U.S. cycling race the same year they stood on the podium in Paris.

“The confirmed participation of the sport’s premiere athletes is a monumental achievement for the event in its first year,” said Sean Petty, chief operating officer for USA Cycling. “It shows the interest and intrigue in what will prove to be an epic battle through the Colorado Rockies.”

Australia's Cadel Evans, who won the Tour de France in just over 86 hours, committed to the Colorado race last week. The Schleck brothers placed second and third in Paris, finishing within two and a half minutes of Evans.

The top American finisher at the Tour de France, Tom Danielson, is also confirmed to compete.

Danielson, who was born in Connecticut, went to school at Fort Lewis College and lived in Durango, Colo., for years. His biography now lists his residence as Boulder, where his team, Garmin-Cervélo, is based. Thanks to his intimate knowledge of Colorado, Danielson, 33, is considered by some experts to be a favorite to win the race.

“Our goal is to assemble one of the best competitive fields an American professional stage race has ever seen,” said Shawn Hunter, co-chairman of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. “This is a great moment of truth for the sport in America and for our race. To have secured such an incredible lineup of teams along with the greatest riders in the world is a credit to what the owners have committed to do in the event’s inaugural year.”

Tom Danielson

Evans, who races for the U.S.-based UCI ProTeam BMC Racing Team, began his career as a champion mountain biker. Prior to focusing on road cycling, he won two World Cup titles in addition to placing seventh in the men’s mountain bike cross-country race at the 2000 Olympic Games.

Evans and the Schleck brothers also finished in the top five in the King of the Mountain contest — an experience that could aid them with the diverse terrain of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which ascends more than two miles in elevation.

The highest points of the race will come Aug. 24 when riders must climb Cottonwood and Independence passes back to back, during their 130-mile trek from Gunnison to Aspen on the third day and second stage of the Colorado tour.

"I've heard good things about the race in Colorado and I know it won't be easy. But I'm up for one more challenge," Evans said.

Two-time Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso of Italy this week also confirmed his commitment to Colorado. Months ago, organizers said four-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland would be here. Alberto Contador of Spain, meanwhile, is building up the suspense. It is widely unknown yet whether Contador will compete.

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