Garmin-Sharp took a run at another stage win Friday at the USA Pro Challenge but came up just short, with Janier Acevedo finishing second to Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) and Ben King grabbing the fourth spot behind Team SmartStop's Rob Britton.
The Garmin duo infiltrated a 12-rider breakaway that sneaked off the front about 60km into the 168km route from Woodland Park to Breckenridge. Then the pair survived the final pairing down up the climb over Hoosier Pass before the race made its way toward one final KOM and the finish. King attacked late to try and soften up the others and set up Acevedo for the win, but Didier was just too strong in the end and came away with the win.
"It was a plan from the beginning to have Janier and I in the break together, but the break really didn't want to go," said King, who earned the jersey for most aggressive rider on the merits of his late-race attacks.
"It took about 60km and was just a constant reshuffling," he said of the breakaway. "So it was pretty cool the way it worked out to have both Janier and I in the 12-man breakaway. I thought Janier had the best climbing legs in the race, especially in the breakaway, so I had to try and do a bit of extra work throughout the day to make sure the breakaway had the best chance to stay away."
With Acevedo the best-placed general classification rider in the breakaway at more than 12 minutes down, the BMC squad of race leader Tejay van Garderen was happy to let the leaders ride away, providing his team a bit of a break.
"When we got the composition we wanted, we had to decide if we wanted to pull it back for the stage win or keep it in check and leave it out there because no one was really that close on time," van Garderen said. "Seeing as how my guys have had to do so much work pretty much from day one, we thought, 'OK, it's too much to ask of them to actually pull it back.' That would have worn them out, and we needed them on Sunday, so we left [the breakaway] out there."
The riders endured another day of extreme weather in the mountains as rain started to fall early and built to a crescendo as the breakaway neared the category 2 climb up Hoosier Pass. But the escapees soldiered on through the weather and had a gap of 4:30 about 100km into the day.
"It was absolutely miserable," King said of the conditions. "It's hard to know how your body is going to react to conditions like that: hail, rain and really, I don't know what the temperature was, but it was freezing. We were shivering on the bike, and people kept dropping back for more and more clothes. So I think it was just kind of a war of attrition."
King fired off the first salvo in the breakaway as he set a hard pace going up the Hoosier climb, eventually exploding the lead group until it was just himself, Acevedo, Didier and Britton coming down the descent.
"Laurent attacked and went over the climb first," King said. "Janier and I were right behind him with Rob Britton. We worked together all the way into the final climb."
The lead quartet tackled Boreas Pass next, and King attacked the category 3 ascent that topped out just 4km from the finish. The 25-year-old former Trek rider gained a workable gap and looked momentarily like he might hold off Didier and Britton over the summit, but Didier flew past the Garmin rider about 300 meters from the top.
"I looked back and it was just [Didier] chasing, chasing, chasing," King said. "He came over the top of me with a big acceleration. He gapped the two other guys, and I wasn't even able to jump on the wheel."
Although obviously disappointed, King had high praise his former Trek teammate that won the stage.
"He did a lot of work today," King said. "So congratulations to him."