Crowds of people are gathering along streets in west and downtown Colorado Springs as cyclists ready themselves for the start of Stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Riders will take off from the Broadmoor Hotel at 12:50 p.m. and follow a circuit course through downtown Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods. Cyclists will complete the circuit four times before finishing downtown. The expected finishing time is between 3:30 and 4:15 p.m.
Residents tell 11 News the event is exciting to watch, but for those driving between 12:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. there are traffic delays to be expected.
Closures will be in place on several downtown streets and west side streets. A full list can be found in a link on the side of this page.
For those traveling Highway 24, there will be a 30 minute delay from 12:45 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. There will be no right turns at 21st Street, and the I-25 ramps will be closed at the Bijou exit. Drivers are told to use the Uintah or Cimarron exits.
If you plan on heading downtown Thursday afternoon, there are four parking garages you can park in. (See map on side of page)
If you want to watch the race, there are three places to park off West Colorado Avenue between 24th and 26th streets. (See map on side of page)
People who work downtown say despite some of the traffic headaches, it's a fun event and they are glad it's back in the Springs another year.
"It's always fun watching everything that happens downtown. We kind of have a window to it right here at the corner street at Academy Bank," Susan Mecham, an Academy Bank employee, told 11 News.
As for the cyclists, Colorado Springs will practically feel like sea level after days of climbing above 10,000 feet. Riders say the lower elevation will mean a faster ride--a "shock to the system," as one rider put it.
"It's going to be a different dynamic," Benjamin Day, a rider from Boulder, told 11 News partner The Gazette. "All of a sudden, there's going to be more power put onto the pedals. It's such a shock to the system to go from the oxygen-deprived stage back to a relatively low height of 6,000 feet. So having those changes is going to make it really difficult."
Riders say that the shorter, faster course Thursday should make for exciting racing in front of the Springs crowd.
"Shorter stages often bring on better racing," rider Michael Rogers told The Gazette. "That barrier of being scared about the distance falls away and the pure racing comes out."