Van Garderen Wins USA Pro Challenge Individual Time Trial
After the 2014 USA Pro Challenge stage 6 individual time trial, van Garderen extended his overall lead to one minute and 32 seconds heading into the final day of racing.
“This is my third time trial in Vail,” van Garderen explained to Roadcycling.com. “The first time I did it, it couldn’t have been worse. I went way too hard and lost the yellow jersey. Last year, I can’t say it was bad, but you could see I was really struggling on television and barely holding on. This year, I felt powerful the whole time and tried to stay conscious the first half. It’s just about judging the altitude on this course. I was helped by a pretty stiff tailwind, but mainly it was just experience that was the difference."
The roots of the USA Pro Challenge individual time trial are in Colorado racing lore and trace back to the Coors Classic. The race against the clock started in Vail and climbed most of the way up Vail Pass, which was a challenging ride, even for the best riders on earth. With rain on and off throughout the day, the gentle grades of the first half of the course gave way to a steady climb for the last three miles. It took more than legs on this strategic course though. If the riders went too hard early the climb could destroy any chances of winning, but if they conserved too much for the climb, then the leaderboard would likely be out of reach.
In last year's USA Pro Cycling Challenge, van Garderen rode the 10-mile course in 25 minutes and two seconds, which was 46 seconds faster than the last course record set in 2011. The first rider went off at 1:05 p.m. and they would continue at one-minute intervals until the final 20 riders, who went off two minutes apart.
The ten mile route was an uphill battle that, combined with wet conditions and elevation, proved to be challenging for the riders. Early in the race Germany's Rick Zabel of BMC Racing Team set a fast intermediate split time of 13 minutes and 57 seconds, but his finish time would be bested by Leopold Konig (CZE) of German Team NetApp-Endura who had the best time at 27 minutes and 40 seconds. Kirk Carlsen (USA) of Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis would move into second with his finish time, just three seconds behind König.
Australia's Michael Rogers of Team Tinkoff-Saxo, a time trial specialist, took the course and charged it at about 27 mph to secure a split time 44 seconds faster than Zabel. A couple minutes later, Ben Day (AUS) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, who will be retiring after the USA Pro Challenge, crossed the line seven seconds faster than Leopold König to take the lead.
“The crowds we had in that last kilometer were pretty mad. It was a lot of fun,” Day explained after the finish. That wouldn’t hold for long though, as Rogers hit the top of Vail Pass at 26 minutes and six seconds, destroying Day’s time by almost a minute and a half.
Ben King (USA) of Team Garmin-Sharp-POC, who went off 97th today, finished one minute and six seconds behind Rogers, which would be good enough for third at that point, knocking German veteran Jens Voigt of Trek Factory Racing into fourth.
The top positions continued to switch around, as Mick Rogers’ teammate Paweł Poljański (POL) finished to take the second place slot. At this point, Tinkoff-Saxo was showing their strength with three riders in the top four on the leaderboard.
At the intermediate checkpoint, Ben Hermans (BEL) of BMC Racing Team clocked a faster time than Rogers by two seconds. That time wouldn’t hold for long though, as Tom Danielson (USA) of Team Garmin-Sharp-POC would crush it as he came through at twelve minutes and 43 seconds, 26 seconds faster than Hermans.
Danielson was putting in quite a ride, but still to come through the checkpoint was Tour de France KOM Jersey winner Rafał Majka (POL) of Tinkoff-Saxo and current overall leader van Garderen. At the checkpoint, Majka was in third, nine seconds behind Danielson. As expected though, van Garderen charged through the checkpoint at 29 mph with a time of 20 second faster than Danielson.
Pushing himself as hard as he could go, Danielson crossed the line at 25 minutes and 19 seconds to take the lead.
“I’ll be honest. I was a little insecure about today,” said Danielson. “I haven’t done a good time trial this year. It was nice to get that monkey off my back today. I felt pretty strong and the crowd was incredible. Colorado crowds are second to none. The last 500 meters were absolutely insane. I thought I was going to crash and I was in so much pain. It was really cool though. I’m very happy with my performance today.”
Serghei Tvetcov (ROM) of Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis finished the stage just behind Danielson to take second place for the time being. But then, in a huge push to the finish, van Garderen crossed the line at 24 minutes and 21 seconds to not only take the stage and keep his overall lead, but set a new course record, besting the record he set last year by 41 seconds.
“Winning (the USA Pro Challenge Vail time trial) both times is just awesome,” added van Garderen. “I love racing in Colorado. To have competition like Tommy D., Serghei and Rafał Majka just goes to show that this race is one of the highest class races in the world. To win it for the second time is no easy feat and I’m really honored.”
Most of the jerseys remained unchanged today with van Garderen keeping the Smashburger Leader Jersey and Colorado National Guard Best Colorado Rider Jersey. With no sprint competitions in today’s stage, Kiel Reijnen (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team held onto the Lexus Sprint Jersey. Ben Jacques-Maynes’ (USA) of Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home performance today was enough to hold onto the Sierra Nevada King of the Mountains Jersey. And Clément Chevrier (FRA) of Bissell Development Team was able to keep his lead and remain in the Colorado State University Best Young Rider Jersey. King was awarded the FirstBank Most Aggressive Rider Jersey.
The 2014 USA Pro Cycling Challenge concludes tomorrow with the 133.8 kilometer (83.1 miles) stage 7 from Boulder to Denver.