DURANGO, CO - AUGUST 19: Tim Duggan (C) USA National Champion riding for Liguigas-Cannondale and Ted King (R) of the USA riding for Liquigas-Cannodale lead their teammates on a training ride in preparation for the USA Pro Challenge on August 19, 2012 in Durango, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge kicks off on Monday in Colorado, with a 125-mile opening stage that will take racers from Durango to Telluride.
The 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge returns once more to Colorado, beginning on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, and running through Aug. 26. Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, which includes Boulder, Colo.'s Tom Danielson, is considered one of the favorites this year to win the second straight major race in the state. Christian Vande Velde, Danielson's Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda teammate, finished second in the 2011 race behind champion Levi Leipheimer. Danielson finished fourth.
The race is usually dominated by American riders, yet this year's list of racers includes a number of foreign contenders who will look to challenge the Americans on the podium. Italian Vincenzo Nibali of Team Liquigas-Cannondale finished third in last month's Tour de France and is considered a favorite to take on defending champ Leipheimer.
This year's challenge will be slightly different than last year's, however, with Monday's Stage 1 opening with a road race instead of 2011's prologue. The competition will be wide open and fierce on this first stage, which begins in Durango and includes a five-mile loop around town before the racers take on the first sprint line of the year.
The race then heads out of town and into a second sprint line in the town of Delores, before the racers embark on a 30-mile canyon climb that will take them to Lizard Head Pass at an elevation of 10,222 feet. After that, they descend into the town of Telluride, finishing with a total distance of 125 miles traveled in Stage 1.
Coverage of stage one begins at 1:30 p.m. MDT on NBC Sports Network, with the race scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. local time.