The 2013 USA Pro Challenge picks up today with a 12:10 p.m. start to Stage 3 in Breckenridge, and a stage finish in Steamboat Springs. Riders will start the 106.1 mile stage heading out of town to a short, steep climb on Swan Mountain Road. The ascent could break up the pack as they ride around the east side of Dillon Reservoir.
Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426 feet) will present the biggest challenge toward the end of the stage. But it may be a welcome break from the climbing the riders faced in Stage 2, over both Independence Pass (12,000 feet), outside of Aspen, and Hoosier Pass, near Breckenridge.
With a third day at altitude some of the racers may be better adjusted. But staying at altitude also makes recovery between stages a challenge.
“Doing strenuous exercise that high is not exactly suggested in the medical world,” Boulder resident Rory Sutherland of Team Saxo-Tinkoff said prior to the race. “Once you overstep that barrier, you don’t come back that quickly.”
Cannondale rider Peter Sagan’s early arrival to Colorado may continue to benefit the No. 2 ranked rider, as he’s been strong through two stages. He started training in Colorado two weeks before the start of the race.
Boulder-based team Garmin Sharp, whose rider Lachlan Moore will be wearing the yellow leader jersey today, will likely continue to have a strong showing. Their riders have all spoken to their strong team ethic, and a desire to be on the podium again at the end. Christian Vande Velde earned the team a first place finish in last year’s race.
After topping Rabbit Ears Pass, riders will face a steep decent as they make their way to what could be another thrilling finish in Steamboat Springs.
With a largely descending course from Silverthorne to Kremmling, it could present an opportunity for sprint racers to take a lead. Racers will attack sprints in both Silverthorne and Kremmling, and compete for the day’s King of the Mountain points on the climb over the pass.
It will be interesting to see how the climbers hold onto the sprinters early on, and if they can make a move at Rabbit Ears Pass.
Stage 4 continues on Thursday with a course between Steamboat and Beaver Creek.