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.