RadioShack-Nissan's Jens Voigt capped his stage 4 win at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado by taking home the king of the mountains jersey on Saturday after stage 6, slipping into another breakaway and earning enough points to come from third place and overtake Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) on the last day that offered mountains classification points.
Voigt started the day tied with Colombian Francisco Colorado (EMP-UNE), 16 points shy of Danielson's leading mark. Both riders made it into the 12-rider breakaway that escaped in the opening kilometers from the start in Golden. The day offered three chances for KOM points on the climbs of Boulder Canyon, Lee Hill and the finish on top of Flagstaff mountain in Boulder.
Colorado struck first, finishing second on the Boulder Canyon climb behind Danielson's teammate Alex Howes and then grabbing second again on Lee Hill behind Voigt's teammate George Bennett. Voigt finished fourth and third on those two climbs and then hung on for third on Flagstaff while Colorado fell off the pace and scored blank, ceding Voigt a three-point lead and the final KOM jersey for the stage race. Danielson slipped to third, five points behind Voigt.
Voigt said he had no plans at the start of the day to go for the mountain classification win, focusing instead on a stage victory because he thought there was no way he could make up the difference in the KOM battle.
“I never really thought I could take it, because also the Colombian kept sprinting for the points,” Voigt said. “So I thought, here he is, he can take it, I'm not in that business. I was just looking for the stage. And then they said, 'Yeah, you might have the KOM.' And I was like, 'Really?' But yeah, even unexpected things, I'm very grateful for them.”
Voigt's win took Danielson by surprise. The Garmin-Sharp rider had also been focused on the Colombian rider, and although he praised Howe's work in the breakaway, trying to keep maximum points from the others, at the end of the day it wasn't enough to keep the jersey on his back.
“It was really important,” he said of Howe's work up the road. “But I guess somehow I didn't keep the jersey. Obviously I'd love to carry the KOM jersey all the way to Denver, but I got to wear it for the week, and I have my stage win. The team has to be incredibly happy. I'm really happy with how this race has gone, and I can't say enough about how great the team has been and how proud I am about everything we've done here.”
Voigt said he could not remember precisely how many KOM jerseys he has won over his long career, but he placed the number at around four of five. And he appeared to be equally as surprised as Danielson by the final outcome in Colorado.
“I never really thought about it because I believed I was hurting this morning,” he said. “But apparently it ended up on my shoulders, so hey, I'll take it.”