With the 2014 USA Pro Challenge less than two weeks away, organizers announced preliminary team rosters Thursday. This year’s race, Aug. 18-24, brings together 128 riders from 30 countries, including six teams that competed in the Tour de France earlier this summer. Aspen’s Tejay van Garderen, the 2013 winner and a BMC rider, will return to headline a competitive peloton.
“I’m really looking forward to defending my race title in Colorado this year,” van Garderen said in a news release. “We are brining a really motivated team, and with a summit finish this year, it promises to be another hard race.”
Coming off a fifth-place finish in this year’s Tour de France, van Garderen will likely be the early favorite. But he won’t be the only top finisher in the Grand Tour to make an appearance. Seventh-place finisher Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) and 12th-place rider Frank Schleck (Trek) will also be in the mix.
After struggling early in the season and missing the Tour de France in part due to complications related to a staph infection, Boulder’s Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) looks to be back in the running as well. He finished first in Stage 4 of the Tour of Utah Thursday, earning the GC lead in the process. Danielson won last year’s Tour of Utah and joined van Garderen on the Pro Challenge podium, finishing third overall.
“I’m super excited to be coming back to race the USA Pro Challenge with my Garmin-Sharp teammates,” Danielson said. “It’s the one event every year I really look forward to because of the huge and crazy crowds and the general vibe of the race.”
Tour de France King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey winner Rafal Majka also is scheduled to race along with last year’s Pro Challenge KOM winner Matt Cooke, also of Boulder.
Cannondale rider and 2013 sprint jersey winner Peter Sagan, as well as 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome and his entire SKY Pro Cycling team, were noticeably absent from this year’s roster. Velonews.com reported both Froome and Sagan will both be particpating in the Tour de Espana — which starts during the Pro Challenge — in preparation the UCI World Championships later this year.
Trek Factory team cyclist and fan favorite Jens Voigt — known for his often comical race analysis and pleasant demeanor — announced that the Pro Challenge will be the final race in his “Farwell Tour.”
“I chose the Pro Challenge as my final race because of the fans,” the 42-year-old Voigt said. “It’s a beautiful state and I just always love the warm welcome and the support I get from the fans.”
Voigt will be the second big-name pro in as many years to call the Pro Challenge his final race. Last year Garmin-Sharp’s Christian Vande Velde — the 2012 winner — retired following the race.
The 2014 Pro Challenge will once again start in Aspen and finish in Denver. Stage 5 will finish in Breckenridge Friday, Aug. 22, after starting in Woodland Park. Vail will host a the Stage 6 time trial the following day. Pro Challenge officials said rosters are still subject to change and will be finalized 72 hours prior to the start of Stage 1, Monday, Aug. 18.