Sixteen cycling teams ready for USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Sixteen of the world’s best professional cycling teams will compete in the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, set for Aug. 20-26.

The racing teams, comprised of UCI Pro, Pro Continental and Continental teams, will include some of the top competitors in the sport, including Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer.

The race, second only to Tour de France, comes through Colorado Springs on Aug. 24 in a Stage 5 finish. Last year local tourism officials estimated the event pumped $2 million into the local economy; statewide, race officials reported an $83.5 million economic impact.

This summer, the race takes riders from Durango to Telluride; from Montrose to Crested Butte; from Gunnison to Aspen;  from Aspen to Beaver Creek; from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs; from Golden to Boulder; and will end in Denver with the time trials.

“After the 2011 USA Pro Challenge, we had such an overwhelmingly positive response from the teams that it was difficult to narrow it down to 16 teams for the 2012 edition,” said Shawn Hunter, Pro Cycling Challenge CEO. “The USA Pro Challenge is building a reputation for having the highest caliber teams in the world, creating fierce competition in the Colorado Rockies. I can’t wait to see what these teams have in store for us this August.”

After taking first place in the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the Tour de Suisse, Leipheimer, of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, will return to the seven-day stage race to defend his title.

2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, of BMC Racing Team, also will compete in the race, as well as his teammate and last year’s fifth place finisher George Hincapie.

“After winning the Tour de France last year and seeing the enthusiasm of the fans, I didn’t think anything could match it, but then I came to Colorado,” Evans said. “Seeing the huge crowds that were along the route supporting us at the USA Pro Challenge was remarkable and really motivated us to do our best. The course and the mountains were beautiful, but incredibly challenging, and I can’t wait to take them on again. I knew last August that I wanted to return to the race in 2012.”

Additionally, Colorado resident Tim Duggan, of Liquigas-Cannondale, who just recently took first in the National Road Race Championships and will compete in the London Olympics, has committed to participate.

Other top competitors fans will see in this year’s race: Frank Schleck; Chris Horner; Jens Voigt; and Janez Brajkovic.

The 2011 race, in its inaugural year, attracted spectators from at least 39 states and at least 16 other countries, according to a report by IFM, a global sports research firm. Spectators spent more than $67 million on lodging, food, transportation and entertainment.  The remaining economic impact comes in the form of team, staff, sponsor and vendor spending, employment created by the event, and the resulting tax effects of the race.

Read more about the teams at the USA Pro Challenge website.