Van Garderen Wins USA Pro Challenge; Howes Wins Final Stage in Denver
Team Garmin-Sharp-POC's Alex Howes wins final stage in fierce sprint in the streets of Denver, Colorado.
The final stage of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge, which played out in front of a beautiful Colorado backdrop, took the riders from the cycling town of Boulder, over Lookout Mountain and through Golden on the way to the finish in Downtown Denver where American Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing Team took the overall win for the second consecutive year.
American Alex Howes of Team Garmin-Sharp-POC, who has delivered an impressive performance in this year's USA Pro Cycling Challenge, won a fierce sprint against Kiel Reijnen (United HealthCare) across the finish line in front of large crowds of cycling fans.
In an attempt at underlining the importance of his race victory, van Garderen said "This is a race that I think has firm footing in the eyes of the world with it broadcasted in so many different countries. I hope we can establish a tradition and soon this race will be one of the biggest historical races in the world."
After leaving Boulder at the start of the stage, the riders had several hilly and windswept miles before reaching Golden for the first of two passes. Through Golden, the riders tackled the four-mile climb of Lookout Mountain. Another quick pass of Golden and the race moved through the suburbs en route to Downtown Denver. The peloton then faced an abbreviated version of last year’s circuit for four fast laps through downtown, 17th Avenue, and City Park. Over the years, the race has witnessed some incredible sprinting on Broadway in the heart of Denver and this year was no exception.
At 78 miles, the final stage of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge would take the riders through a 4.7-mile neutral section before the official start of the race. Anticipated to have the highest fan attendance of any stage, the final day of racing featured one Sierra Nevada KOM and two Lexus sprint competitions. Heading out of town at around 30 mph, the riders traveled through streets that were lined with huge crowds of fans. Knowing it was the last chance for a stage win, the competition started early with a lot of activity off the front almost immediately.
Only a few minutes into the race, a group of 12 riders pulled away from the group, including Michael Rogers (AUS) of Tinkoff-Saxo, Jens Voigt (GER) of Trek Factory Racing, Caleb Fairly (USA) of Team Garmin-Sharp, Cameron Wurf (AUS) of Cannondale Pro Cycling, Adam Phelan (AUS) of Drapac Pro Cycling, Jonathan Clarke (AUS) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, Javier Megias (ESP) of Team Novo Nordisk, Hugh Carthy (GBR) of Rapha Condor JLT, Jesse Anthony (USA) of Optum Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies, Jonathan Freter (USA) of Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis, Tiago Machado (POR) of Team NetApp-Endura and Ruben Zepuntke (GER) of Bissell Development Team. Wurf wouldn’t hang on for long though and would fall back to the group.
At about 16 miles into the race, the gap increased to two and a half minutes and went back down a bit, continuing to fluctuate as Cannondale Pro Cycling and BMC Racing Team set the pace