USA Pro Challenge: Where to watch — top 8 local places to cheer at the USA Pro Challenge | SteamboatToday.com

USA Pro Challenge: Where to watch — top 8 local places to cheer at the USA Pro Challenge

— Top 8 viewing spots

Stage 1: Steamboat Springs circuit

1. Downtown

Lincoln Avenue will be the heart of what should be one of the great days in sports in Steamboat Springs, and it will be the perfect place to watch the race.

The finish line will be on Sixth and Lincoln in front of Old Town Pub and All That. The best spots will be fenced off for "very important people" but plenty of great vantage points will be available, especially to those who show up early and stake out their territory early.

VIP, media and medical tents will take up much of the Fifth and Sixth street blocks on the south side of Lincoln, although there's room to the west of those setups before Seventh Street on the north and south sides. There's also plenty of available space on either side along Lincoln stretching to the east.
 Posting up on the south side comes with one advantage: it's closer to the beer (and other concessions).

2. Three Witches climb

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Riders in the peloton climb the “Three Witches” — or “Three sisters” or “Three…” nevermind — climbs near Oak Creek during the 2013 USA Pro Challenge.Matt Stensland

The "Three Witches," back-to-back-to-back steep hills just north of Oak Creek on Twentymile Road, won't make pros sweat the way it does locals, but it should still slow the peloton down and make its riders grit their teeth, which means it's a great place to gather to watch the race.

The place to be is on the third hill on the counter-clockwise loop out of Steamboat. That's where a King of the Mountain checkpoint will offer points and where plenty of fans should be gathered to cheer on the rider who collects them.

3. Oak Street

Fans stationed on Oak Street will get not one, but two, chances to see riders at the start of the race thanks to a non-competitive parade route the course will follow. It will go from Lincoln to 10th, to Oak, to Fourth and back to Lincoln and do it twice before rocketing out of town over the 13th Street bridge.

4. Twentymile

If crowds aren't your thing, Pro Challenge spectating may not be for you, but finding a nice, scenic spot on Twentymile Road should be possible and should be somewhat lonely. It won't have the excitement of downtown or the shenanigans of the Three Witches climbs, but it should have some spectacular views with the rolling hills and Sleeping Giant as a backdrop behind the riders.

Stage 2: Steamboat Springs to Arapahoe Basin

1. Rabbit Ears Pass summit

Pro Challenge riders last went up Rabbit Ears Pass to the east in 2011, and local cyclists still talk about the party that raged at the top.

There's no reason to expect anything different this year. A King of the Mountain checkpoint will be on the western summit and that will be the congregation point. Plenty will camp atop the peak, and those who don't will head up bright and early Tuesday morning to secure a good spot.

What makes spectating on an uphill section so enjoyable is not just seeing pros suffer, or seeing some surge ahead of their peers. It's seeing them all go slow — a major contrast to a sprint finish, where one poorly timed blink can ruin the day.

2. Gondola Square

The Stage 2 start, in Gondola Square, will be one of the best chances for fans to get up close and personal with riders. The start village will open to the public at 10 a.m., a little more than an hour before the race is scheduled to start.

The start ceremony will get underway at 11:10 a.m., and the race will begin at 11:25 a.m. Riders should be around through much of the preceding weekend, but Tuesday morning on Gondola Square will be a great place to look for autographs.

3. Halfway up the pass

Sure, the top of Rabbit Ears Pass may be more fun, but the views are undoubtedly better halfway up on U.S. Highway 40. With the valley stretched out for miles and miles, it's one of Steamboat's signature vantage points, and it would be a great place to watch more than 100 of the world's best riders pedal.

4. Pine Grove Road and U.S. 40

The race is officially on as soon as it hits U.S. 40. Watching as the peloton takes its final ceremonial, orderly turn onto the highway should make for a great scene. Don't stand too close to the corner, though. They'll cut it as close as they can and give you at best a scare and at worst an injury.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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