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When the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge sped through Colorado last August, it generated more than $80 million in economic impact, according to race officials. An estimated million-plus people attended statewide, and in Denver for the finish, people were reportedly six- to seven-deep along the final mile.

It wasn't quite that jammed, for that long, among the prologue spectators in downtown Colorado Springs. But at the start and finish lines, locals and visitors combined to create a super-exciting atmosphere befitting the awesome efforts of the multinational athletes.

For that afternoon, we didn't need more cowbells. The cacophony of metal-on-metal was plenty massive, and magnificent. People who had never paid attention to a single moment of cycling in their lives — who had only heard of the Tour de France in the same way that everyone knows what the Kentucky Derby and Wimbledon are, regardless of actually caring about who might win either event — were suddenly transfixed.

"Hey, there goes Danny Pate, the local guy." "There's Cadel Evans — he won the Tour de France last month." "Oh my God, did you see Levi Leipheimer at the end of the stage?"

Simply put, it was an amazing time to be a Coloradan, a Springsian, and just a bike fan. And the good news for all involved is, it's back again.

Turn between pp. 25 and 40 to take a closer look at this year's race. And don't even think about not being downtown, bell in hand, for the Stage 5 finish on Friday, Aug. 24.

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