Stage 1 Sets Exciting Precedent for USA Pro Challenge
by Jesse James McTigue
Aug 22, 2012 | 2031 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A FANTASTIC sprint to end Stage 1 on Telluride's main street. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
A FANTASTIC sprint to end Stage 1 on Telluride's main street. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
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TELLURIDE – The town of Telluride officially became a fan of professional cycling Monday, as Tyler Farrar of Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda sprinted through town to win stage 1 of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge amidst thundering applause from the spectators, three-deep, lining Main Street.

The opening stage of the seven-day race had riders cycling 125.6 miles and climbing a total of 9238 vertical feet, under cloudy skies and intermittent rain showers, from Durango to Telluride.

Even with a star-studded field of 16 teams and 124 riders, including cycling legends Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie and Cadel Evans as well as young phenoms like Tejay Van Garderen, all the talk Monday was about Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda riders Farrar and teammates Tom Danielson and Peter Stetina.

The Boulder-based team took full advantage of the home crowd and home terrain. Danielson, who attended and raced for Fort Lewis College, counted on his familiarity with the route and shook things up as soon as the race left Durango town limits.

“I’m pretty familiar with the first part, or actually the whole race today,” Danielson said, citing races and training rides he remembered from his days in Durango. “Our director this morning [Charlie Wegelius] was like, ‘Well guys, let’s take it to the race and try to cause a big split and try to make some chaos’.”

The chaos came often and early, and members of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda continually attacked throughout the stage.  The first break occurred shortly outside of Durango town limits at the race’s first sprint line. A group of 22 riders successfully broke from the pack and in it were Danielson, Stetina and teammate Dave Zabriskie. Upon reaching Dolores, about sixty miles into the race, the break group had reached a five-minute lead over the peloton.

Approaching the stage’s crux climb up Lizard Head Pass (10,222 ft.) the breakaway group dwindled to nine with the peloton working hard and quickly diminishing the five-minute gap. A confident Danielson broke again climbing up Lizard Head and rode solo to finish the climb and begin a long descent, holding a 20-second lead over his pursuers and now only a minute over the peloton.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Eduard Alexander Beltran Suarez (EPM-UNE) and Stetina caught Danielson. Stetina and Danielson were able to work together and again break away. As Danielson said in a press conference after the race, “It almost worked.”

But in a dramatic finish, the two were swallowed by the peloton about two miles from the town of Telluride on the Spur, the only road coming in or out of the town. It would be a sprint finish and Farrar, who had patiently stuck with the peloton the whole race, positioned himself perfectly and sprinted up the last three blocks of Main Street for the win.

Because the race pace was so aggressive (the average speed was around 30mph) and route mountainous, many of the top sprinters were unable to stay in the peloton.

Farrar held on and got the job done when the opportunity arose.

“This was a hilly stage for a sprinter,” Farrar said. “ We weren’t riding for a sprint today. Our goal was to get guys like Tom [Danielson] and Peter [Stetina] up the road. It was just kind of lucky that I was able to hang on and to salvage it in the sprint to the end when they got caught.”

Luck or no luck, the win was definitely sweet for Farrar, who has had a season he called “horrible.”

“It’s just been a really rough year,” he said. “As far as crashes go, the last few months have been disastrous. It really means a lot to me to finally get something positive. I feel like I’m moving in the right direction again.”

Farrar, who hasn’t raced a big stage race in the U.S. since 2009, added, “It’s special as an American to race big races in your own country. For our team, racing in Colorado is hugely important.”

Danielson too seemed to be inspired by the Colorado fans ,and moving in the right direction Monday after having separated his shoulder so severely in Stages 3 and 6 of the Tour de France earlier this summer that he could not finish.

His confidence was clearly back as he dominated much of the stage, and won the stage’s title of King of the Mountain. After the race he said, “It was cool to be up there with Nibali (2012 Tour De France third place overall finisher] slicing and dicing Lizard Head Pass then coming into Telluride.  I thought we were going to win; I thought we had it, but I’ll try it again tomorrow.”

Tuesday promised to be another difficult leg, as the cyclists will ride 99.2 miles from Montrose to Mt. Crested Butte, with over 8,000 feet of vertical gain, to battle in an uphill finish.

And with competitors like last year’s USA Pro Challenge winner Levi Leipheimer; 2011’s USA Pro Challenge second place winner, Christian Vande Velde (who lost by only two seconds); 2012 Tour De France’s best young rider and fifth-place overall finisher Tejay Van Garderen; and 2012 Tour De France third-place overall finisher Vincenzo Nibali – this race has clearly just begun.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Leipheimer said of the race at a Durango press conference before Stage 1. “There are not a lot of opportunities to gain time, but lots of opportunities to lose time.”

And after Monday’s exciting debut in Telluride, it became clear; there’d also be lots of opportunities to win over more Colorado fans to the sport of professional cycling.



Results for Stage 1:

Overall

Farrar R.GRS4:42:48

Bazzana A.TT14:42:48

Caruso D.LIQ4:42:48





King of the Mountain

Tom DanielsonGRS



Sprint

Tyler FarrarGRS



Best Young Rider

Gavin MannionBLS



Most Aggressive

Peter StetinaGRS

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