Van Garderen Wins Stage 3 at USA Pro Challenge and Takes Race Lead
Defending USA Pro Challenge Champion Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) today won the queen stage of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge and took the general classification lead under sunny Colorado skies.
American Tejay van Garderen of the BMC Racing Team proved his climbing skills when today's Queen Stage of this year's USA Pro Challenge concluded on Monarch Mountain - the race’s first-ever mountaintop finish. Taking the stage win and the overall Pro Challenge lead, in addition to the Lexus Sprint Jersey and the Colorado National Guard Best Colorado Rider Jersey, van Garderen dominated stage 3 of the race, despite heavy racing activity from Team Garmin-Sharp-POC.
“I love this race. Every year I’ve done the Pro Challenge, I’ve taken away something from it,” said van Garderen. “I look forward to this race every year. And unless the Pro Challenge finished higher than this before, this is definitely the highest elevation I have ever finished at.”
During Stage 3 of the race today the riders were not only faced with a mountaintop finish, but they also had to pass over it first, giving spectators a chance to see the race multiple times from the same vantage point. Starting in Gunnison, the race went east for 35 miles before tackling the 11,300 ft. monster that is Monarch Pass. The riders then descended the eastern slope of the pass and completed two 9-mile loops through Salida and the surrounding countryside. Then they tackled nearly 20 miles of climbing to the finish at 10,800 ft.-Monarch Mountain Ski Area.
After a 6.9-mile neutral start out of town, the riders didn’t waste any time and immediately started launching attacks, traveling at 32 mph. With a lot of activity on the front, none of the breaks were able to stick and everyone was still riding together at 35K into the race.
At 50K, five riders, including Michael Koch (GER) of Cannondale Pro Cycling, Jeff Louder (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) of Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home, Jacob Rathe (USA) of Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis and Bernie Sulzberger (AUS) of Drapac Pro Cycling, broke away and gained a slight advantage, but then were reeled back in as they headed into the first Sierra Nevada KOM of the day at Monarch Pass.
A Cat. 1 climb at 11,312 ft. with a 2,743 ft. elevation gain, Monarch Pass would prove to be a test for the riders, splitting the field into several different groups. Janier Acevedo (COL) of Team Garmin-Sharp put his climbing skills on display by pulling ahead and, with his team setting a tough pace in the group just behind, the break was cut down to just eight riders. Included in this group were Tejay van Garderen (USA) and Ben Hermans (BEL) of BMC Racing Team; Rafał Majka (POL), Michael Rogers (AUS) and Paweł Poljański (POL) of Tinkoff-Saxo; Tom Danielson (USA) and Acevedo; and Carter Jones (USA) of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies.
Lined with fans, the climb up Monarch Pass destroyed the field and broke the riders up into several small groups. Reaching the top of the climb first was Hermans, followed by Danielson and Poljański. With about a 50-second advantage, the break screamed down the back side of the climb, past the stage finish and on