At least one pro cycling team will call Summit County home for the week leading up to this year’s seven-stage USA Pro Challenge cycling race. Representatives from the Jelly Belly Cycling Team told the Summit Daily Tuesday that its training base will be at Keystone Resort from Monday, Aug. 11, through Saturday, Aug. 16. In years past the team has trained in Evergreen during the week leading up to the Pro Challenge.
“Summit just makes way more sense,” team marketing and sponsorship manager Rob Quinn, a Summit County resident, said of the decision to move, adding that he hopes Keystone will be the team’s base for years to come. “Hopefully we’ll create some momentum and get more teams to come here every year.”
With only a week between the finish of the Tour of Utah and the start of the Pro Challenge, team manager and former Olympic cyclist Danny Van Haute said it was the logical choice.
“If you enter the USA Pro Challenge without any altitude training, you’re probably not going to be a contender,” Van Haute said. “You have to do it. It’s a must.”
Last year, 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome’s Team Sky riders chose to come to Colorado only a few days before the race and suffered the consequences. Both Froome and American teammate Joe Dombrowski eventually dropped out of the race. Dombrowski — who had persistent nose bleeds and dropped out prior to Stage 3 — and Froome cited a lack of acclimatization for their struggles. Froome held on until the race’s final stage in Denver.
As for this year’s Jelly Belly team, Van Haute said it’s “a stronger team than last year.” But as a UCI continental team it will have an uphill battle to contend with the strong international field.
“The challenge is staying with them on the hills,” he said of the pro field that includes a number of Tour de France riders. “They’re not coming here on vacation; they’re coming to win.”
He continued to say that while he doesn’t expect his team to be in contention for the General Classification (GC), he’s hopeful to be in the running for some podium finishes in the individual stages.
“We don’t want to be pack fillers. We’re an aggressive team, we want to compete. This is our Super Bowl of cycling. We don’t want to just sit on the sidelines,” he said. “If we can get Freddie (Rodriguez) on Peter Sagan’s wheel, he could have a chance to podium. If he wins a stage, it’s a plus for us.”
The week between the two races will be a recovery period for the team, with a number of shorter training rides. Van Haute said his team will plan to ride in the Summit County area and may look to pre-ride portions of the course.
Fun ride and kids clinic
As part of its week of training at Keystone, the Jelly Belly team will host a public ride and junior cycling clinic on Wednesday, Aug. 13.
“It’ll be really neat,” Quinn said. “It’s really cool when a team bases in the area.”
Free to the public, the ride goes up Loveland Pass in the morning and the team hosts a lunch and Q&A at Luigi’s Pasta House in Keystone Village. Following lunch team riders will host a kids cycling clinic to give area youths and visitors riding pointers on techniques and riding styles.
“We’re absolutely excited to have these athletes be here training with us before the Pro Challenge,” Keystone resort spokeswoman Laura Parquette said. “Allowing kids and families a chance to interact with these elite athletes is definitely an exciting opportunity.”