MADISON, Wis. -- With steep climbs through dairy country, a proposed cycling course for the 2016 Olympics in and around Madison was described Friday as one of the toughest in the history of the games.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle announced Friday that Madison would be the cycling hub, hosting three events, in Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid.
The road race, individual time trials and mountain bike events would all be held in the Madison area, about 150 miles northwest of Chicago, with an athlete's village at the University of Wisconsin.
The naturally hilly terrain just outside of the state capital was the "perfect fit" for the road race, Doyle said. The course would start on campus, head east through the downtown area, which is on an isthmus between two lakes, then finish at Blue Mound State Park, about 25 miles to the west.
The mountain bike course would be at Tyrol Basin, a popular ski and snowboard destination near the city of Mount Horeb, west of Madison. The time trials would be in Madison.
Doyle said the courses were selected with input from professional cyclists, including Kenosha native Robbie Ventura, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong's on the former U.S. Postal Service team at the Tour de France.
Ventura said he consulted with Olympic cyclists about what type of course they would want. They advised it should require the winner to be fast but also able to deal with hills. The course selected, which features steep inclines as high as a 14 percent grade, was a perfect mixture that would result in the best all-around athlete winning.
Colin O'Brien, a time trial specialist who owns the custom-bike shop Chronometro in Madison near where the starting line would be, often rides in the area that will be part of the course. He said the short durations of the steep hills will make for an exciting road event that should remain tight throughout.
"We have very short, very steep up-and-down hills. From an athlete's perspective, it's a bit different to train for," O'Brien said. "It will become tactically challenging to tear the race apart."
Wisconsin has a rich history with the cycling community. Trek Bicycle Corp. is based in Waterloo, Wis., just outside of Madison and the area boasts an extensive system of hundreds of miles of bike trails.
"This community, they love wheels," Ventura said.
About 320 athletes would take part in the events, but bid organizers had no estimate as to how many spectators may come. Very little in infrastructure improvement would be needed to prepare the area for the games in seven years, said Doug Arnot, Chicago 2016's operations chief.
"Madison right now has what it takes to hold an event of this sort," he said.
O'Brien said the event would attract significant tourism.
"I think that's the most exciting element," he said. "Not only do the teams come and check out the course and the terrain, but so do the fans. This occurs with major events all over the world -- Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Tour of California. There are thousands, tens of thousands of cycling fans that go to that area where the race is going to be and ride the same roads, look at the same scenery that the athletes do."
Chicago is competing with Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Games. The International Olympic Committee will select the site in October.