Stage 5 of the 2014 USA Pro Cycling Challenge began outside of Colorado Springs in the city of Woodland Park, a first-time host city for the event. With light rain falling, riders pushed up steep ascents on Hoosier Pass for a dry and exciting finish in Breckenridge, Colorado. The ride took cyclists up 11,500 feet, with intermittent rain and challenging weather conditions, including a temperature of only 49 degrees at the top of the pass.
Laurent Didier, (LUX, Trek Factory Racing) attacked on the final climb up to Breckenridge on Boreas Pass. With clearing weather, he climbed to 10,087 ft.,cresting Boreas Pass first, followed by Janier Alexis Acevedo (COL, Team Garmin-Sharp) and Rob Britton (CAN, Team Smartstop).With only 1K to the finish, Didier was holding his lead, with Britton and Acevedo close behind. At the finish, Didier was in the lead with Acevedo in second and Britton in third.
“Today, I didn’t feel that good in the beginning. The first 40K was quite hard, but I was in the front at one point,” said Didier. “The really big thing here is the altitude. When you’re in Denver, you’re going flat, but you’re already about 1,800 ft. up. In Europe, 1,800 ft. is the top of the climb and in Denver, we’re already there.”
Tejay van Garderen (USA, BMC Racing Team), the overall leader and defending champion, held onto his 20 second lead and will wear the yellow jersey leading into the individual time trial in Vail. “It was definitely a tough day,” said van Garderen. “The breakaway took a really long time to get along and my team had to control it the whole time. That, coupled with the cold and the rain, made it pretty hard, especially on my team because they had to pull all day.” Despite the weather early in the race, van Garderen continues his quest to win this year’s event.
Benjamin King (USA, Team Garmin-Sharp), who was awarded the FirstBank Most Aggressive Rider Jersey, commented on the temperature and weather conditions, noting that conditions improved during the descent into Breckenridge. “It was sprinkling, but I was a lot more dry toward the end of the stage than the rest of the day,” said King. “That high altitude is also cold. Then, you have that 15 minute descent when you’re not pedaling much and you get even colder.”
The race finished with warmer temperatures and dry skies in Breckenridge. Fans lined the streets and surrounded the podium to watch the awards ceremony. Many of the riders signed autographs and did television interviews preceding the awards ceremony. There was plenty of action throughout the day both before and after the race finish, with everything from Strider Races for youngsters and a free concert after the finish by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. The festival village included demonstrations and fans could watch the team support buses and staff in action as they prepared their teams for another day of great cycling tomorrow.
The great thing about the USA Pro Challenge is it provides an opportunity for both serious cyclists and recreational enthusiasts to taste the action and learn more about the sport. The athletes themselves are gracious, with one podium winner throwing his winner’s bouquet into the crowd for a lucky fan to catch. It’s gestures like this that have spectators talking about already returning for next year’s event, while the dedicated cyclists return to watch a race that showcases Colorado’s incredible mountain scenery while providing technical difficulty. To check out some of the sights of today’s action, here’s a photo gallery. Hopefully next year you’ll be able to see it in person!