Tuesday, August 20, 2013

USA Pro Challenge 2013

Normally I have more of a preview of the race, but I've been busy.  Quick recap of what we've seen so far and where we're going from here:

Stage 1: In the circuit around Aspen it was expected that the race would end in a bunch sprint, and it did.  Also as expected Slovakain National Champion Peter Sagan won the day and took the first yellow(overall), green(sprinter), and blue(young rider) jerseys.  A group of 17 contested the sprint and picked up 5 seconds over the rest of the field.  The big loser was Garmin's Andrew Talansky who lost minutes, not seconds, yesterday and any GC hope.  Matt Cooke took the red (climber) jersey, Craig Lewis the orange (aggressive rider) jersey, and Radio Shack-Leopard-TREK the team lead.

Stage 2: Starting with the now traditional climb out of Aspen over Independence Pass and ending in Breckenridge, two late climbs were the wild card.  Would they break up the peloton?  They did, with 7 riders spreading out over less than a minute gap.  BMC's Mathias Frank got enough ahead to take the win by 3 seconds over Garmin's Lachlan Morton, but Morton was in the group that had a 5 second lead after Stage 1 and took the race's overall lead by 3 seconds.  The rest of the peloton got strung apart in the final kilometers, leaving lots of gaps with Joe Dombrowski losing a minute and Andy Schlek losing a minute thirty.  The rest of the favorites are still within about 45 seconds.  Morton takes the yellow and blue jerseys, Frank the orange jersey, and Sagan keeps the green jersey while Cooke keeps the red.  BMC takes over the team lead.

Stage 3: Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs.  In 2011 my wife and I saw the start of this stage going the other direction, leaving Steamboat heading to Breck.  Rabbit Ears Pass was early that day, allowing the peloton to stay together.    On Wednesday the pass will be the last big challenge before the finish.  A long and steep decent will allow the race to possibly come back together but a breakaway that works together could stay free for the win.  Odds are this is another day for Peter Sagan.

Stage 4: Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek.  A slightly different route than they used going the opposite direction in 2011 (which we saw the finish of in Steamboat) but another tough day with an uphill finish at the end.  The climbers are expected to get the win on Thursday going into Friday's time trial.

Stage 5: Vail Time Trial.  The Coors Classic time trial returns after a year's absence.  In 2011 Garmin's Christian Vande Velde (the 2012 race winner) was beaten by the now retired Levi Leipheimer by less than a second for the stage win.  Odds are that the overall winner will probably be determined after this one, as the following two days don't offer great chances to gain time.

Stage 6: Loveland to Fort Collins.  All new roads for the race on Saturday as they make their first trip to the northern part of the Front Range.  The race gets to Fort Collins from Loveland by way of Estes Park, which is probably the best place to watch the race.  Lots of climbing through the canyons to get up there and back.  A climber might be able to make some time like Tom Danielson did last year on the queen stage but odds are the peloton will come back together for a final sprint, which means Peter Sagan.

Stage 7: Denver Circuit.  The same circuit they used last year for the time trial, this time the whole peloton will ride together for 8 laps around the city, from City Park to Larimer Square and down Speer before finishing in front of the capitol as they have every year.  This will be a pure sprint and almost certainly won by Peter Sagan.

With 5 stages to go, it looks like the likely favorites are BMC's Teejay Van Garderen, Garmin's Tom 'Tommy D' Danielson, Lachlan Morton, and Christan Vande Velde.  Outside chances for Bontrager's Lawson Craddock, or Jamis-Hagen's Janier Acevedo, plus a number of young riders who are currently floating around inside a minute of Morton.

And if you don't know I'm a huge fan of Boulder-based Garmin-SHARP, so any of those guys winning would be fine by me.

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