Viviani Blasts to Victory in Stage 4 of USA Pro Challenge
In a hectic circuit race through Colorado Springs that included everything from flat sprints through the city streets to challenging climbs in the picturesque Garden of the Gods, Italy's Elia Viviani of Cannondale Pro Cycling emerged victorious in stage 4 of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge after catching German veteran Jens Voigt of Trek Factory Racing following a solo breakaway. American defending champion Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing Team held onto the overall lead and has a twenty second advantage leading into tomorrow's fifth day of racing.
Van Garderen said he enjoyed a surprisingly stress-free stage in his first day as race leader. "Today worked out better than we could have imagined," van Garderen commented after being celebrated on the podium in Colorado Springs. “With such a short stage, we thought there could be attacks all day. Thankfully we were able to keep it controlled. We got to sit on wheels all day, so it was a perfect scenario for us."
A third year host city, Colorado Springs featured a challenging 70-mile circuit race today that included four Sierra Nevada KOM competitions and three Lexus sprint lines. After a ceremonial start at the world-famous Broadmoor, the race headed into town and joined up with a 16-mile circuit that would be raced four times. In addition to some flat sections, the stage featured climbs through Garden of the Gods, Mesa Rd. and the infamous Ridge Rd., which hits grades of nearly 17 percent.
“The crowds were absolutely incredible,” added van Garderen. “Every year the crowds rival any race we do, including the Tour de France. It’s hard to beat crowds like this anywhere.”
The hostilities started early in today's stage. Almost immediately after the peloton was released, 11 riders broke away in a durable attack. The group included Voigt and Laurent Didier (LUX) of Trek Factory Racing, Gregor Mühlberger (AUT) of Team NetApp-Endura, Adam Phelan (AUS) of Drapac Professional Cycling, Danny Summerhill (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, Martijn Verschoor (NED) of Team Novo Nordisk, Rob Britton (CAN) of Team SmartStop, Oscar Clark (USA) and Tims Skujins (LAT) of Hincapie Sportswear Development Team, Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) of Jamis-Hagens Berman, Steve Fisher (USA) of Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis and Ruben Zepuntke (GER) of Bissell Development Team.
Approaching the first of three KOM competitions in the stage at Garden of the Gods, a picturesque national landmark, Jacques-Maynes hit the top first, followed by Voigt and Summerhill. Traveling at 40 mph, the gap increased to four minutes.
Heading into the second lap and just 5 kilometers from the second KOM of the day at Garden of the Gods, Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies took the lead on the chase and cut the gap down to three and a half minutes. At the first Lexus Sprint Line of the day, Summerhill sped off to cross the line first, followed by Zepuntke and Britton.
With UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team and Team Garmin-Sharp-POC taking the lead on the chase, the gap continued to drop leading into the second KOM of the day. Jacques-Maynes pushed it to hit the top first and build a lead in the KOM jersey competition. He was followed by Voigt and Summerhill.
Halfway into the stage and approaching the second and final sprint line of the day, Summerhill took max points, building a lead in the sprint jersey competition. He was followed by Skujins and Zepuntke.
With forty kilometers to the race finish and approaching the third KOM of the day, Voigt launched a remarkably powerful attack and took Jacques-Maynes with him. At the top of the climb Jacques-Maynes kicked into gear and crossed the line first, but then fell back to the chase group. Voigt reached the top second and later, from the group behind, Summerhill third. Simultaneously Didier and Verschoor fell off the back of the break and Verschoor would eventually fall of the chase as well and was reabsorbed.
With about thirty kilometers left in the race, Voigt had opened up a one minute gap on his chasers and almost three minutes on the field. As the riders crossed the line to head into the final circuit lap of the race, the chase and the field started to come together to go after Voigt. As he crossed the summit of the last KOM, Voigt had about one minute and twenty seconds on his chasers. When the group reached the top, Lucas Euser (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team crossed the line second and Peter Stetina (USA) of BMC Racing Team in third.
With teams of sprinters chasing him behind, Voigt’s gap started to whittle away in the last fifteen kilometers to the finish. The rest of the Trek Factory Racing Team was doing all they could on the front of the field to break up other team’s attempts to organize a chase and help their leader to a stage win in the final race of his career, but unfortunately, at five kilometers to go, the gap had been cut to only 35 seconds. With the Cannondale Pro Cycling, Hincapie Sportswear Development Team and Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies teams pushing the pace on the front of the chase, it would come down to the final stretch of the race to determine the stage winner.
In the end, Voigt’s effort wouldn’t be enough to pull out the win and he was reeled in by the hungry peloton with only one kilometer to the finish line.
“We put it all on the line today. We hoped for the best and there are no regrets about it,” Voigt explained. “I did my best and I don’t think I could have done better. I took as much risk as I would have dared to take and I was all in today. I would like a stage win here, but no one is going to give it to me. There is no such thing in cycling.”
In a final sprint to the finish Viviani charged across the line to take first, followed by Martin Kohler (SUI) of BMC Racing Team. Taking third in the stage for the second day in a row was Serghei Tvetcov (ROM) of Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis.
“It was a huge win today. It was perfect for me,” Viviani commented after being congratulated by the podium girls. “My perfect sprint is 200 meters and when I saw the 200 meter mark, I went with maximum power. I had a great and beautiful experience in 2011 and now I’ve come back three years later and it’s still such a beautiful place. I like to race here so much, but it’s really difficult.”
"With 200 meters left, I wanted to go, but hesitated a bit and then Viviani came by ten kilometers an hour faster than me," BMC Racing Team's third place finisher Kohler said. The past Swiss national road and time trial champion, said he was originally focused solely on riding in service of van Garderen and keeping a breakaway of 11 riders in check. "Until a lap to go, I was only thinking of doing my job for Tejay," he said. "But we didn't have to do anything on the middle two laps, so I saved a bit to try something in the sprint."
Jacques-Maynes took over the Sierra Nevada King of the Mountains Jersey today. Voigt was awarded the FirstBank Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for his impressive solo breakaway. With the rest of the jerseys remaining unchanged, van Garderen kept the Smashburger Leader Jersey and the Colorado National Guard Best Colorado Rider Jersey. Kiel Reijnen (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team held onto the Lexus Sprint Jersey as did Clement Chevrier (FRA) of Bissell Development Team to the Colorado State University Best Young Rider Jersey.
Friday's stage five is a 173 kilometer (107.5 mi) ride from Woodland Park to Breckenridge.