The “Queen Stage.” In professional cycling it’s typically the hardest day of competition in a multi-stage race. Today’s Stage 4 of the USA Pro Challenge will prove its deserving of the title.
One look at the stage profile and you could confuse it with a cardiac monitor.
While it doesn’t reach the same heights as Stage 2 did when it crossed over 12,000-foot Independence Pass, Stage 4 will be a day for the best climbers to shine.
Today could be a make or break day, in what has been an otherwise tight competition through three stages. It will very likely separate the field and start to show serious contenders for the general classification (G.C.) and the yellow jersey.
One thing is for sure, it will be a mountain climber on the podium for the stage win at the end of the day in Beaver Creek.
Riders will get rolling on the 102.9-mile course with an 11 a.m. start in Steamboat Springs.
From Steamboat they will face a number of short climbs and descents on their way to the day’s only sprint in Oak Creek.
The course continues to climb, then descends steeply as riders make their way to the first of two King of the Mountain (KOM) hill climbs. Jamis-Hagens Berman’s American rider Matt Cooke will be looking to hold onto the red polka-dotted KOM jersey he’s worn through three stages.
Suspense will build as the riders make their way to a grueling ascent on Bachelor Gulch at the 90-mile mark. Bachelor Gulch also features the day’s second King of the Mountain competition. The descent from the high mountain pass will have riders hitting breakneck speeds of between 50 and 60 mph as they make their way toward Beaver Creek.
The 23-year-old sprint leader and Stage 2 winner Peter Sagan will be one of the riders to watch. Can the No. 2 ranked rider in the world maintain his momentum, or will a strong climber rise above the peloton? Garmin Sharp team representatives have indicated that their young rider and current G.S. leader Lachlan Morton may not be able to hold onto the yellow jersey. This could be the day that other members of the team make their move. Boulder-based Garmin Sharp has been quietly lurking in the midst of the pack. With strong climbers like Tour of Utah winner Tom Danielson, today might be the day they make a move.
Organizers say the racers are expected to reach the finish line in Beaver Creek at around 3:50 p.m.
The Pro Challenge resumes Friday with Stage 5, which features the return of the acclaimed Vail Time Trial race to the top of Vail Pass.
Race coverage will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network and streamed online at www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com
Garmin Sharp team representatives have indicated that their young rider and current G.S. leader Lachlan Morton may not be able to hold onto the yellow jersey. This could be the day that other members of the team make their move.