There’s no better way to get a sense of how strong you are in the saddle than pitting yourself against the very best. Fortunately, new programs allow you to test your mettle against the pros. Don’t plan on winning, but don’t give up either.
The Tour of Utah’s Ultimate Challenge
This seven-day race lets amateurs join in for one day – at the event’s penultimate stage on August 9. You start in Salt Lake City, five hours ahead of the pros, and follow the same 110-mile route they do. The ride features two unforgettable climbs: Guardsman Pass, a four-mile ascent with grades as steep as 20 percent, and Little Cottonwood Canyon, which ends at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort – where you’re greeted by more than 10,000 cheering fans. “If you’ve been to the Tour de France and the finish at Alpe d’Huez, that’s what it’s like,” says Dirk Cowley, a race events director. Most amateurs finish in seven to nine hours. But those at the back of the pack are treated to what may be cycling’s greatest consolation prize: getting passed by a peloton of the world’s best cyclists as they sprint toward the finish. [Cost: $115 to enter; 40- and 60-mile versions are also available; tourofutah.com]
USA Pro Challenge Race Experience
“It’s the ultimate fantasy camp for serious cycling fans,” says Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong’s former coach and the creator of this event, which lets amateurs ride the entire seven-day USA Pro Challenge, held in Colorado on August 18–24. No more than 25 riders participate, and they tend to be hard-core amateurs; to win a spot, you have to submit event times and power-meter stats. Those accepted get to tackle each stage of the Rocky Mountain course two to three hours ahead of the pros, while being assisted by Grand Tour–style support cars and barked at by Carmichael. Entrants eat pre-race meals alongside the likes of Tejay van Garderen and Jens Voigt, and they are attended by a team of soigneurs who give daily massages and – just as in the Tour de France – do the laundry. [Cost: $10,750 to enter; usaprocyclingchallenge.com]