In an animated final kilometers Tejay van Garderen (BMC) out sprinted Christian Vande Velde for the stage win stage 2 of the USA Pro Challenge in Crested Butte. The 24 year old not only took the stage but also the yellow leader’s jersey from Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar.
Stage 2 was the shortest of the week long USA Pro Challenge. At 99 miles it would bring the riders over three, category 3 climbs, the highest the Blue Mesa at an elevation of 8,719 feet. While not the steepest climbs professional racers face, it was enough that current leader Farrar was not expected to stay in yellow by the end of the day.
A break of 12 manged to slip loose from the peloton which contained Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Julien El Fares (Team Type 1), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale), Rafael Infantino (EPM-UNE)), Mathias Frank (BMC), David Zabriskie (Garmin-Sharp), Christopher Baldwin (Bissell), Craig Lewis (Champion Systems), Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), Matt Cooke (Exergy) and Camilo Castiblanco (EPM-UNE).
At one point the breakaway group had a lead of over five minutes and it looked they would stay away.
With Farrar not a serious threat to remain in the leader’s jersey, it was left to other teams to chase the break. Farrar, showing his professionalism, was always near the front – staying out of trouble.
By the time the break went through the sprint in the city of Gunnison the peloton was starting to cut into the time gap. The reason for the dropping time was the break was attacking itself with the result that the riders would chase down the attacker, catch them, and the pace would slow. That slight ebb would set off the chain reaction of attack and chase again. And each attack and capture was reducing the average speed of the break and motivating the chasing peloton.
With ten kilometers to the finish it seemed that the break was doomed. It has been reduced to eight riders pushing hard on the final gradient to summit finish of Mt Crested Butte. The last kilometers to the ski town was animated with several riders attacking. However, with less than a kilometer to go Vande Velde and van Garderen separated themselves from the front group of riders. In the final 250 meters last year’s second place overall winner came around Vande Velde for the win.
“I wasn’t over confident going into the last 4 k, but I know I was going to try,” said van Garderen.
This was van Garderen’s first professional road race win. “I’ve been counting and I think I’m up to eight second places in my career and a lot of thirds and fourths,” said van Garderen.“Today was a good one.”
With still five tough stages ahead the race for the leader’s jersey isn’t over. The time gaps between the overall contenders is still small.
“All it could take would be a gap in a bunch sprint, be on the wrong side of it and Christian takes the jersey,” explained van Garderen. However, van Garderen feels optimistic for the rest of the race.
“I think if I can just hold him (Vande Velde) and not let him get away that I can beat him in the time trial. I’m confident to say that.”
Second place finisher, and now also second on the general classification, Vande Velde was satisfied with the day’s result. The Garmin-Sharp captain doesn’t have the responsibility of defending the yellow jersey, but remains within shot of taking the yellow jersey later in the race.
“I am really happy with my ride today and very proud of how the team is riding here in Colorado. As an American team based in Boulder, this race is a special one for us,” said Vande Velde. “The team is ultra motivated, we’ve animated the race the first two days and we hope to continue to do so as the week goes on.”
With tomorrow’s tough stage to Aspen, which includes a category 3 and two category 1 climbs, the USA Pro Challenge is far from over.
· First Place – Tejay Van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team
· Second Place – Christian Vandevelde (USA) Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
· Third Place – Ivan Rovny (RUS) of RusVelo
· 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 – Rafael Infantino Abreu (COL) of EPM-UNE