Stage 5 of the USA Pro Challenge was expected to end in a field sprint and it didn’t disappoint. Coming off the wheels of his Garmin-Sharp teammates Tyler Farrar out sprinted the peloton to take his second stage victory in the streets of downtown Colorado Springs.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge so far has been an exciting stage race. We’ve had multiple leadership changes from Farrar, Vande Velde, and now van Garderen, along with great rides by Tom Danielson and Jens Voigt. However, the breaking news after stage 4 wasn’t just the German’s amazing ride – Lance Armstrong issued a press release stating he was not going to fight USADA’s charges against him. The result was Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories and given a lifetime ban.
When Cycling Illustrated approached George Hincapie for a comment he replied, “I’m going to make a statement about that in the very near future. I just want to focus on making these guys win. Tejay has a good shot so I want to focus on that.”
Stage 5 was the only day that looked like one for the sprinters. There was one KOM line just ten miles into the stage and two sprint lines for the points jersey with finishing circuits into Colorado Springs – the home of USA Cycling’s headquarters.
Another stage another early breakaway at the USA Pro Challenge. This time the early breaks were short lived and it wasn’t until after the first KOM at the top of Hoosier Pass that a group got a gap on the peloton. In the break was Oliver Zaugg (RadioShack-Nissan), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Sergey Firsanov (RusVelo), Ivan Santaromita (BMC), Carter Jones (Bissell), Biao Liu (Champion Systems), and Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy (Astana).
No one in the break was a threat to van Garderen’s lead as they rolled through the sprint line in Fairplay with an advantage of 5:40 over the peloton.
With the stage on paper looking to favor a sprinter, UnitedHealthcare and Garmin-Sharp started to do some work respectively for their fast-men Jake Keough and Tyler Farrar. With their combined effort they started to dig into the breakaway’s advantage.
Rain began to fall on the racers and perhaps this, along with a headwind, was another factor in the main peloton continuing to eat into the break’s advantage.
With the second and final sprint of the day the break was still maintaining a three and a half minute lead. This gap was not far enough to be out of the peloton’s grasp.
When the break entered the Garden of the Gods, just outside of the city of Colorado Springs, the break started to tear itself apart with attacks. Jones was the first to attack and he was brought back by Nabali, who then counter-attacked. He was caught and all this in-fighting was shrinking the time gaps between themselves and the main peloton. However, Nibali and Zaugg weren’t about to give up the ghost and continued on while their previous companions from the break were absorbed by the peloton.
By the time the peloton was on the downtown circuits the field was all together. Today’s stage was going to be determined in a field sprint.
Farrar described the last kilometers of the stage as “chaotic.”
“I was in a good spot and counting the guys in front of me and realized I was going to come up 100 meters short, which it did, and it swarmed,” explained Farrar.
“On roads that large its hard. I got a little boxed in with 300 meters but I managed to find a bit of empty road along the fence and made it through.”
Van Garderen remains tied on time with Vande Velde and for the 24-year old it was another day at the office.
“It was a bunch sprint, so it was sort of a rest day for the GC (general classification) guys. It got a little bit stressful there on the circuit when the rain started coming down. I tried to stay at the front, tried to stay safe. Every little bit of energy you can save today is more for tomorrow.”
With two decisive days of racing remaining, van Garderen feels confident about remaining in yellow in Denver.
“I haven’t had a bad time trial yet, and I don’t think I’ll have one on Sunday.”
This brings Garmin-Sharp stage wins to three, along with Tom Danielson’s KOM jersey, Farrar in the points jersey, and Christian Vande Velde holding the leader’s jersey.
Saturday the riders climb the famous Flagstaff Mountain, possibly where the final general classification of the USA Pro Challenge could be determined. This ascent could see the resurgence of Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) who sits in fourth place, eight seconds back.
· First Place – Tyler Farrar (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
· Second Place – Taylor Phinney (USA) of BMC Racing Team
· Third Place – Alessandro Bazzana (ITA) of Team Type 1-SANOFI
· Exergy Leader Jersey – Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team
· Waste Management Sprint Jersey – Tyler Farrar (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
· Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey – Tom Danielson (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
· Aquadraat Best Young Rider Jersey – Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) of Bontrager Livestrong Team
· Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey – Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
Images by Brian Hodes