The 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge final stage start in Golden, CO (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images, provided by USA Pro Cycling Challenge)

The USA Pro
Cycling Challenge
, one of the largest professional cycling races in
the US, have teamed up with the second-annual Gran Fondo: Texas TMCO
to create the KOM (King of the Mountain) Challenge.

Held on April 1, in Houston, TX, the Gran Fondo:
Texas TMCO is both a race, and a recreational ride for people of all ages. The
event features a USA Cycling-sanctioned “Gran Fondo” style ride that consists
of a 97-mile route, including a King/Queen of the Mountain competition.
Additionally, the recreational ride options have routes of 25, 45, 65, 87 and
100 miles.

Racing the climb into the town of Anderson, will
give participants a sense of what the pros experienced last August, as the gran fondo participants will ride alongside the same course signage — albeit in a different state — and under the
same KOM arch used in Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge.

“Cycling in Houston has a great following, and
the partnership with USA Pro Cycling Challenge makes our event unique,” said
Eric Powell, steering committee chair of the Gran Fondo: Texas TMCO. “The Gran
Fondo: Texas TMCO provides a great chance for all riders, regardless of their
experience and skill, to get out there and start riding.”

The 97-mile gran fondo, which will follow
recreational rides of varying distances, will give riders the chance to test
their climbing legs in a timed “King/Queen of the Mountain” Challenge, a race
within a race. The fastest male and female finisher to cross under the official
USA Pro Cycling Challenge arch will be crowned the winner at a post-event
awards ceremony.

“We see our partnership with the Gran Fondo:
Texas TMCO as an opportunity to get more people interested in cycling,” said
Brian Farris, chief operating officer of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“Whether it serves as inspiration for the next pro rider or it provides
encouragement for someone to just get on their bike and ride, we want to make
an investment in the future of cycling.”

The leaders starting a stage at the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge (photo credit: John Pierce, provided by USA Pro Cycling Challenge)

The Texas TMCO Fondo marks the first time the USA
Pro Cycling Challenge has participated in an amateur event, the Colorado-based
organizers recognized the opportunity to bring elements of a professional race
to people across the country. “It’s important to support the growth of cycling
and encourage participation in amateur events like the Gran Fondo: Texas TMCO,”
said Farris. 

Both the race and the ride start and end at
Houston Oaks Country Club Family Sports Retreat in Hockley, Texas. Along
with musicians at several of the rest stops, the Texas Medical Center Orchestra
and Mariachi Los Gallitos will perform at the post-ride lunch, which will be
followed by an awards ceremony to recognize the top finishers of the day. 

Proceeds from this event benefit the Texas Medical
Center Orchestra and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. More information
can be found online at

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