2014: Teams taking shape for USA Pro Challenge in Aspen
The Aspen Times
The top climber from the Tour de France will race in Aspen during the USA Pro Challenge on Aug. 18 and 19.
With the official teams announced for the 2014 USA Pro Challenge, individual roster positions are starting to take shape — unofficially —for the 16 squads that will ride in the seven-day, 550-mile tour of Colorado.
Rafal Majka of Poland will join his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates for the 2014 Colorado stage race, according to a report Wednesday from Velonews, the Boulder-based cycling publication/website.
Majka won two stages in the recent Tour de France en route to the prestigious King of the Mountain title. The climbing sensation finished sixth overall at the tough Giro d’Italia in May. He was third in the young rider classification.
His Tour de France teammate, Australian Michael Rogers, also will race in Colorado in the USA Pro Challenge this year. Rogers won a stage in the Tour de France this year after winning two stages in the Giro, including the celebrated queen stage on Monte Zoncolan.
Rogers has a successful resume racing in North America. He was the first non-American to win the Tour of California in 2010. He was second overall in the Tour of Missouri in 2008.
The Velonews article by Neal Rogers, who has covered the USA Pro Challenge since its inception in 2011, said official start lists for the USA Pro Challenge have not yet been released. But based on rosters for the upcoming Spanish Vuelta along with the rosters in the Tour of Utah, team riders for Colorado are surfacing.
Defending USA Pro Challenge overall winner Tejay van Garderen, who lives in Aspen, is expected to return this year to defend his title with his powerful BMC team. He’s not in the field at the Tour of Utah after finishing fifth in the Tour de France this year — his second fifth-place finish in the Tour.
The defending champion in the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race, Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan, will not return to Colorado where he won four stages last year. Sagan, in his final contract year with Cannondale, will race in the Vuelta a Espana this year.
Sagan reportedly will sign a big deal with Russian-owned Tinkoff-Saxo for next season. Many of his Cannondale teammates reportedly are being courted by the Colorado-based Garmin-Sharp team, who will be led by Tom Danielson in the USA Pro Challenge.
Danielson will be coming off last weekend’s Tour of Utah win, his second in a row, and hoping to top his third-place finish at last year’s Pro Challenge. A former national collegiate mountain bike champion at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Danielson balances his training between Boulder and Tucson, Arizona.
He will be joined by another strong climber from his Garmin-Sharp team, Colombian Janier Acevedo.
Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp, the team leader at the Tour de France until he was forced to abandon because of injury, will not race in Colorado. He’s headed to Spain.
Ivan Basso is ticketed as the leader of the Cannondale team for the Colorado stage race this year. He’s currently riding in Utah.
Jens Voigt’s last race
Another noted cyclist confirmed to race in Aspen is crowd favorite Jens Voigt, the German riding for Trek Factory Racing.
The USA Pro Challenge will be the final professional race with Voigt, 42, retiring after the seventh-stage finish in downtown Denver.
Voigt is a former stage winner in the USA Pro Challenge, taking a solo ride to a breakaway win at Beaver Creek two years ago.
His Trek Factory team is one of five UCI Pro Teams to race in Colorado. The others are BMC, Cannondale, Garmin-Sharp, and Tinkoff-Saxo.
Three UCI Pro Continental teams are entered in the USA Pro Challenge: Drapac Professional Cycling (Australia), Team NetApp–Endura (Germany) and Team Novo Nordisk (U.S.)
Seven UCI Continental teams will race here.
They are U.S. teams Bissell Development Team, Hincapie Sportswear Development Team, Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home, Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis, Optum Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies and Team SmartStop. Team Ralpha Condor JLT from Great Britain also will race in Colorado.
The Bissell Development Team will include recent Aspen High School graduate Keegan Swirbul, who signed with Bissell earlier this year.
He’s currently racing in the Tour of Utah.
He and his teammates will be in Colorado for the opening of the USA Pro Challenge, the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race on Monday afternoon, Aug. 18.
The cyclists will ride three laps on the same 22-mile loop course used last year — downtown Aspen to Snowmass Village via Highway 82 and Owl Creek Road; down Brush Creek Road to Medicine Bow; climb Medicine Bow to Upper Ranch Road; up Upper Ranch then descend to Highway 82 at Smith Hill; climb W/J hill to McLain Flats Road; return to Aspen via Cemetery Lane, Power Plant Road, Smuggler (through the West End); back to Main.
Starting at 2:10 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18.
One day later, the peloton of the USA Pro Challenge will leave Aspen for the start of stage 2 on Tuesday, Aug. 19.
The stage will head down Highway 82, through Basalt and Carbondale before heading to Redstone and McClure Pass on Highway 133.
Then after descending McClure Pass, the cylists will head to Crested Butte over the dirt and gravel surface of Kebler Pass.
Breckenridge will host a key Stage 5 finish Friday, Aug. 22, followed by the return of the Vail Time Trial for Stage 6. The race concludes Sunday, Aug. 24 in Boulder.
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