Obscure names belie what lays ahead for the peloton, writes Anthony Tan in Colorado Springs.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Garden
of the Gods, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs… you'd be forgiven for
thinking you accidentally logged onto a porn site, or were reading about
the misadventures of Dirk Diggler (a.k.a. Mark Wahlberg) in the 1997
cult film, Boogie Nights.

It's okay, relax… They happen to be some of the towns the peloton will visit during this week's USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

Sunday's
pre-race press conference was reasonably entertaining – as far as press
conferences go, anyway. Perhaps the highlight was the showing of a
30-second promo from Versus, the pay TV channel that will be broadcasting the race live each day in the US.

The
voiceover was almost certainly a baritone, and the dramatic script –
with equally dramatic background music – went something like this (when
reading out loud, make sure you emphasise the capitalised words):

"Cadel
Evans got the better of Andy Schleck at the Tour de France, but NOW
it's time for a RE-MATCH, as they go HEAD-TO-HEAD in the Rocky
Mountains. They'll face each other, HIGH altitude and HUGE mountains, as
well as some of America's TOP riders, as they battle for GLORY in the
first U-S-A-PRO-CYCLING-CHALLENGE. Watch it LIVE on VER-SUS from August
22 to 28!"

If it was supposed to rattle Cadel and Andy, it didn't.

Sitting alongside one another, centre stage, they looked at each other for a moment – before cracking up.

"I
don't see this race as a rematch between Cadel and me," said Andy
Schleck, "that's going to be next year at the Tour de France.

"Of
course I'd like to beat him," he said, accompanied by his typical
boyish grin, "but it's not like a goal, [not] why I'm here. There's
other riders here who can win this race, and there's no bad riders here.
It's not a personal match between Cadel and me."

As John Henderson of the Denver Post
wrote Sunday: "The seven-day Pro Cycling Challenge may be an amusing
feature on the pro circuit, but it's a slasher movie in the eyes of the
pros.

"Some riders are approaching Colorado like campers approach
bear-infested forests," Henderson said, who received a deadpan reply
from HTC-Highroad's Bernie Eisel, when he asked how long it would take
the German lead-out-man-extraordinaire to acclimatise.

"For Colorado? I think never," Eisel said.

Unlike
Evans, who arrived a week ago and has done little training since the
Tour finished on 24 July, the younger Schleck told reporters that he's
been out here since 9 August – staying in nearby Steamboat Springs for
almost two weeks, at just over 2,000 metres' above sea level.

Waxing
lyrically about Wednesday's queen stage that tackles the race's two
highest climbs, Cottonwood and Independence Pass, both over 3,600
metres' altitude, Henderson said: "If riders exhaust their energy
getting up Cottonwood, there's no way they can recover up Indy.

"Riders could fall back like empty beer cans."

Perhaps
by week's end, riders' heads may be spinning so helplessly out of
control, they may well think they've died and being reincarnated as porn
stars.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan