After a goose-bump inducing rendition of the American national anthem, the 450 strong peloton teemed with anticipation as it set off from North Boulder Park on stage 1 of the inaugural Mavic Haute Route Rockies.
With 66.5 miles (107km) and 6,234 feet (1,900M+) of total ascent, the climb up to Sunshine Canyon presented the main difficulty of the day and began immediately on the outskirts of the city. Adding to the demands of this first climb were the gravel roads, which would make up 30% of this first stage.
Within 2 miles of the start, riders were on their way up to Sunshine Canyon, as the route carved its way eastwards onto single lane gravel roads. This 16.4-mile (26.4 km) ascent was the first opportunity for riders to test themselves on gravel roads.
At the first feed station halfway up the climb, Swiss rider Christian Pfefferle stated: “This is the first time the Haute Route is in Colorado, so I simply had to be here. It’s really interesting; we would never ride on gravel roads in Switzerland, I love this element of the American cycling culture!”
Perched at 8,297 feet (2,529m) above sea level, the quaint mining town of Gold Hill welcomed riders with smiles and open arms as they approached the summit of Sunshine Canyon.
From Gold Hill, riders climbed another 7 miles (11km) to reach the Peak to Peak Highway where they could appreciate the snow-capped mountains before heading back down into the plains for the rest of the stage.
As they rode down through the gorges, alongside the Middle Saint Vrain Creek, riders formed alliances as they rode in groups to conserve energy and pace themselves to the finish. At the foot of the descent riders were faced with a series of gravel and paved rollers on their way back towards the finish line in Boulder.
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Check out the scenery, long stretches of gravel, and massive climbs from Day 1: