Tejay Van Garderen takes stage victory and overall lead in USAPCC
Team BMC Racing's Tejay van Garderen earlier this afternoon powered to victory in an uphill sprint to the finish line in Crested Butte, Colorado. van Garderen beat Team Garmin-Sharp's Christian Vande Velde in the sprint and thereby took the lead of the USA Pro Challenge.
Commenting on his stage win Van Garderen said he initially wasn't aiming to win the 160-kilometer race. "But then toward the end, our guys started working and started bringing the gap to the breakaway down," he said. "So I couldn't let them down. I also knew this day, the race from Aspen to Beaver Creek (Stage 4) and Stage 6 to Boulder would be the decisive ones. So I thought I'd hit out early and give it a shot."
Van Garderen's victory was his first since winning the Stage 3 individual time trial at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah last year on his birthday (August 12). His highlights this season include finishing fifth at the Tour de France – while winning the best young rider classification – and a runner-up finish at the U.S. national time trial championships.
An early break of about thirty riders wouldn’t stick, but did lead to a smaller group of twelve tearing off the front to form a breakaway that would last up until the last minutes of the stage. The twelve-man breakaway group consisted of Alex Howes (USA) of Garmin-Sharp; Camilo Castiblanco (COL) of EPM-UNE; Christopher Baldwin (USA) of Bissell Pro Cycling; Craig Lewis (USA) of Champion System Pro Cycling Team; David Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Sharp; Jens Voigt (GER) of RadioShack-Nissan; Julien El Fares (FRA) of Team Type 1-SANOFI; Mathias Frank (SUI) of BMC Racing Team; Matt Cooke (USA) of Team Exergy; Rafael Infantino (COL) of EPM-UNE; Valerio Agnoli (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale; and Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale.
Heading into the first climb of the day – Cat. 3 Cerro Summit (7,973 ft.) – Castiblanco pulled away from the group to take max points, followed by Cooke and Nibali, but then was absorbed back into the group. Continuing into the second KOM – Cat. 3 Blue Mesa Summit (8,719 ft.) – a similar situation unfolded with Castiblanco, Cooke, Lewis taking first, second and third, respectively.
Continuing on, the riders approached the first Waste Management sprint line of the day in Gunnison, which will also play host to start of Stage 3 tomorrow. Crossing to the cheers of enthusiastic crowds lining the route, the maximum points went to Howes, followed by Baldwin and Lewis.
In an unfortunate accident, Ben King (USA) of RadioShack-Nissan, Georg Preidler (AUT) of Team Type 1-SANOFI, Rubens Bertogliati (SUI) of Team Type 1-SANOFI and Sergey Klimov (RUS) of RusVelo hit the deck at the back of the peloton, but all riders courageously remounted and finished the stage.
With the stage nearing the finish, the break was reduced to nine riders after Voigt, Nibali and El Fares fell back to the peloton.
Joined by other teams, BMC Racing worked hard to chase down the breakaway group and their work turned out to be effective. In a last effort, with about 3 km to go, Castiblanco attacked the break, but was brought back in by Frank.
The final kilometer was a flurry of action, with Castiblanco's teammate, Ramiro Rincon, and RusVelo's Ivan Rovny taking the lead, only to be passed back by Frank and Howes. But all of them saw their chances dashed when van Garderen – with Vande Velde in tow – roared by inside the final 500 meters.
In the overall rankings Van Garderen leads Vande Velde before tomorrow's stage 3 of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge.