VAIL PASS — In previous competitions here, the USA Pro Challenge time trial has been a very close race.
In 2013, the 10-mile, 1,694 vertical foot ride was decided by four seconds. In 2011, it was even closer.
This year, however, it was not a tight race.
Finishing 52 seconds faster than his nearest competitor, Tejay van Garderen of Aspen dominated the field here, setting a new course record and increasing the 2014 Pro Challenge overall lead which he held coming into Saturday.
Many thought the rainy skies over the course would prevent a new record from being set here. With the rain came other conditions, however, which van Garderen said gave him speed on the difficult climb.
“There was definitely a stiff tail wind out there that helped us out,” he said after the race.
Second on the day was Tom Danielson of Boulder, who said he was very pleased with his time of 25 minutes, 19 seconds.
“For a moment there I saw my time and I was like ‘Oh, maybe I won,’ then Superman here came flying through,” Danielson said of van Garderen, who finished in 24:26. “But he’s the best guy in the race, so to be second to him is a really big honor … I can’t see anyone in the world beating him here.”
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
For van Garderen, the Vail Time Trial is becoming a case of practice makes perfect.
“The first time I did (the Vail Time Trial, in 2011), it couldn’t have gone worse. I went out way too hard, completely misjudged my effort, lost the yellow jersey,” he said. “Last year … you could see from the split, I was 30 seconds up. And at the line I was only four seconds up … I was just struggling, barely held on. This year I felt powerful all the way through, I really tried to stay cautious in the first half and that definitely came with some experience, knowing how to judge my effort at this altitude and on this course.”
‘CROWD WAS INCREDIBLE’
For several riders in the field, Saturday’s race was the last time trial of their careers. Alex Candelario, Jens Voight and Ben Day all plan on retiring at the end of the season; Voight enjoyed a moment in third place Saturday with a time of 27:15, before being eventually knocked down to 18th on the day, and Ben Day spent a little while in the “cold seat,” as the top spot was being called Saturday amid 40-degree Fahrenheit temperatures atop Vail Pass.
Day said despite the cold temperatures, the crowd numbers at the finish were impressive as usual.
“I’ve gotta say that the crowds that we had there for that last kilometer were pretty mad,” Day said after the race. “That last kilometer, you don’t really feel it so much. It was a lot of fun.”
Danielson also praised the crowds, who demonstrated – under rain jackets and umbrellas – that the term “fair-weather fan” would not apply here.
“The crowd was incredible,” said Danielson. “Colorado crowds are second to none. The last 500 meters of the race were absolutely insane, I thought I was going to crash, and I was in such pain that, at that moment that, crashing sounded like a good option. … All this pain could stop at this moment, I just gotta hit this guy in the banana suit. But he got out of the way so I had to go the distance.”
Sunday’s seventh and final stage will take USA Pro Cycling competitors from Boulder to Denver, up Lookout Mountain, where they haven’t been since the race’s inception in 2011.
Van Garderen leads the field by 1 minute, 32 seconds.
“For a moment there I saw my time and I was like ‘Oh, maybe I won,’ then Superman here came flying through. But he’s the best guy in the race, so to be second to him is a really big honor … I can’t see anyone in the world beating him here.”
second-place finisher, describing Tejay van Garderen, who finished first in 24:26