Cycling stars line up for USA Pro Challenge
The Aspen Times
The stars are lining up for the USA Pro Challenge.
International cycling stars like reigning Tour de France winner Chris Froome, his first lieutenant Richie Porte, Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan and Aspen favorite Tejay van Garderen are on the official rosters released Wednesday by officials of the stage race across Colorado.
There’s even an Aspen native on the start list again in 2013 — Alex Hagman, Aspen High School graduate and pro rider for the Jelly Belly team.
The USA Pro Challenge will start Monday, Aug. 19, with the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race, a three-lap course on a 20-mile loop including Owl Creek Road, Brush Creek Road, Medicine Bow Road, Upper Ranch Road, the W/J hill, McLain Flats Road, Cemetery Lane and a rectangle of racing in downtown Aspen.
Stage 2 will start in Aspen on Tuesday, Aug. 20. The cyclists will climb Independence Pass and Hoosier Pass with a finish in downtown Breckenridge.
“The competitive level of the field for the 2013 USA Pro Challenge is, by far, one of the best that has ever raced on American soil,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Challenge. “Chris Froome swept headlines last month after winning the Tour de France and to have him on the start line for the USA Pro Challenge will be amazing.”
Hunter indicated last weekend in an interview with The Aspen Times that Froome, the Kenyan-born Brit who rides for the powerhouse Sky Procycling, likely would lead the field when they take the first pedal strokes of the USA Pro Challenge in downtown Aspen.
“I think Froome is coming in here and really wanting to make a statement,” Hunter told The Aspen Times.
Froome is on the official entry list with Australian Porte ready to lend a helping hand as Sky makes its first venture to North America.
Froome will have support from three American riders on the Sky roster for the USA Pro Challenge. They are Danny Pate, of Colorado Springs, Ian Boswell, of Bend., Ore., and Joe Dombrowski, origially from Virginia.
Dombrowski won the best young rider competition at the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.
The 2013 field also features van Garderen, a part-time Aspen resident, and his BMC team.
Van Garderen, who is married to Aspen native and former pro racer Jessica Phillips, will be the No. 1 rider for the BMC team. Cadel Evans, the Australian who won the 2011 Tour de France, will not race in the USA Pro Challenge this year.
But van Garderen, who won the Tour of California earlier this summer, will be backed by an experienced squad including Mathias Frank, Julien Taramarcaz and Michael Schär, of Switzerland, and Stephen Cummings, of Great Britain.
Americans Lawrence Warbasse (Michigan) and Brent Bookwalter (New Mexico) will ride in support of van Garderen, who is expected to enjoy a high level of support from the Aspen/Snowmass crowds.
The field for the 2013 challenge also will include defending champion Christian Vande Velde, of the Colorado-based Garmin-Sharp team. He’s recovered from injuries suffered in the Tour de France.
The USA Pro Challenge is scheduled to be Vande Velde’s final big stage race before he retires.
His team this year will include Tom Danielson, of Boulder, who used a solo breakaway on Cottonwood and Independence passes to win last year’s stage that finished in Aspen.
Jens Voigt, of Germany and the RadioShack Leopard Trek team, also will race again this year. He’ll be the oldest rider in the field at age 41. He won last year’s stage that finished in Beaver Creek, using a similar solo break strategy.
Voigt’s RadioShack team will be led by the popular Andy Schleck, of Luxembourg, who is returning to the Colorado roads where he was a fan favorite in 2011, the inaugural year of the USA Pro Challenge.
Ben King, of Virginia, will support Schleck alongside trusted veterans like Andras Klöden, of Germany.
Another international rider with a collection of stage wins at the Tour of California, the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge will lead the Cannondale Pro Cycling team.
Peter Sagan’s support team will include older brother Juraj Sagan, also of Slovakia.
American Ted King, of New Hampshire, is the lone North American on the roster of the Italian-based Cannondale team.
“This really is a world-class field,” said Hunter, who already is looking at 2014 course options for the USA Pro Challenge. “With Froome and the other … Europeans stars racing here, it’s great validation for the event and for the communities involved, like Aspen,” said Hunter, a longtime sports executive who helped develop the Tour of California as well as the USA Pro Challenge.
The field this year will number 128 riders from 31 countries. Seven of the teams competed in the recent Tour de France.
In addition to Sky, BMC, RadioShack, Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale, the UCI Pro Teams racing in Colorado are Team Argos-Shimano and Team Saxo-Tinkoff.
Four UCI Professional Continental Teams will race in the USA Pro Challenge this year. They are Champion Systems (China), UnitedHealthcare (U.S.), Team Novo Nordisk (U.S.) and Colombia (Colombia).
Five UCI Continental Teams also will race. They are Bissell Pro Cycling, Bontrager Cycling, Optum/Kelly Benefit Strategies, Jamis-Hagens Berman/Sutter Home and Jelly Belly/Kenda.
The Jelly Belly squad includes Hagman, who went from Aspen High School to Durango where he won a national collegiate mountain bike championship at Fort Lewis College before turning pro.
He raced in the 2011 USA Pro Challenge, finishing 40th — one of the highest finishes for a Continental Team rider. Hagman currently is racing in the Tour of Utah.
The riders for the 2013 USA Pro Challenge will be introduced in opening ceremonies at the Snowmass Base Village on Saturday, Aug. 17.
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