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Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the first stage of the USA Pro Challenge! Today the peloton faces a 60.6 mile (97.6km) circuit race which starts/finishes in Aspen, Colorado.
We're just moments away from the peloton to roll off the start line in Aspen for it's 1:05pm MDT start.
It's an absolutely beautiful day in Aspen with brilliant sunshine and temperatures in the mid 70s F.
And the third edition of the USA Pro Challenge is underway! The 128-rider strong peloton faces a neutral opening lap in Aspen of 4.4 miles (7.0km) before heading out onf the first of three circuits, each 20.5 mile (33km) in length.
Stage 1 packs in 3,080 ft. of climbing per lap with minimal recovery, so this is no easy start. Each lap will see the racers fight for position onto the Maroon Creek Bridge, then grind up to Snowmass Village. A quick descent leads to two short, but steep climbs and a quick loop through downtown before doing it all again.
There are two intermediate sprint opportunities in the stage - at the end of the first full lap and the end of the second full lap.
The first mountains classification jersey of the USA Pro Challenge is up for grabs today, with 4 KOM opportunites during the stage. There is the category 4 climb at Snowmass 8 miles into the circuit and a category four climb at McLain Flats 14.5 miles into the circuit. KOMs will be up for grabs at each KOM on the second and third laps of the circuit./p>
The neutral start was momentarily extended as Bruno Pires (Saxo-Tinkoff) had a mechanical, but he's back in the peloton and we're underway!
And we have an immediate attack from Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman). Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) is trying to bridge the gap.
Vennell has made contact with Wren and the pair have a slender 10-second lead.
The USA Pro Challenge peloton contains seven World Tour teams, four Pro Continental teams plus five Continental squads. Each has eight-rider rosters.
Ryan Eastman (Bontrager) has also bridged across to Wren and Vennell.
Two riders, Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) and Carson Miller (Jamis-Hagens Berman), trying to bridge.
We now have seven riders off the front with a 40-second lead. The escapees include Davide Villella (Cannondale), Craig Lewis (Champion System), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell), Ryan Eastman (Bontrager), Tyler Wren and Carson Miller (Jamis-Hagens Berman)
The peloton is strung out single file in full chase mode and the gap to the break is now at 15 seconds.
And the break has been caught 5 miles (8km) into the stage.
And there's an immediate counter-attack from Craig Lewis (Champion System). He's alone off the front and being chased by Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman) and Ian Burnett (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
Lewis has a five-second lead on the chasers and 30 seconds on the peloton.
The three riders off the front have joined together. They see 1km to the Snowmass KOM line, but no point are on offer until the next lap.
The break of Craig Lewis (Champion System) Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman) and Ian Burnett (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) now have a 40-second advantage over the peloton, which has passed through the Snowmass KOM.
The three-man break now enjoys a 50-second lead on the peloton.
The leaders see 5km to the second KOM line at McLain Flats, but again there's not points on offer on the opening circuit. KOM points will be up for grabs on the second and third laps of the circuit.
As the break had completed 11.5 miles (18.5km) their lead has grown slightly to 1:10
Lewis, Cooke and Burnett see 1km to the McLain Flats KOM line.
There is quite a strong peloton assembled for the USA Pro Challenge. For the second time in the race's three-year existence the current Tour de France champion is present in Colorado. That would be Chris Froome of Team Sky.
The British WorldTour squad is also racing in the United States for the first time. Froome is joined by his trusty lieutenant Richie Porte, but they've stated they're here in the US in support of their American teammates: Joe Dombrowksi, Ian Boswell and Danny Pate. Read more about Froome's and Porte's take on the team's plans here.
As the leaders make their way back towards downtown Aspen they're currently passing by some very nice horse farms.
The gap between Lewis, Cooke and Burnett and the peloton has grown to two minutes.
Another star from this year's Tour de France in attendance at the USA Pro Challenge is green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale). It's the first time Sagan has raced in Colorado and the first time that the Tour's green jersey champion has started the race.
Cyclingnews' Pat Malach is in the race convoy and reports that the wind is pretty calm.
The break sees 5km until the first intermediate sprint, which is at the end of the first circuit in downtown Aspen.
Peter Sagan has been training in Aspen for two weeks to acclimate to the altitude and is building for the road world championships. Read about Sagan's early trip to Colorado here.
The USA Pro Challenge has drawn huge crowds in its first two years and today, the opening stage of the third edition, continues the trend. Plenty of parties alongside the route as well as a big turnout in Aspen.
The break has rolled through the finish line and sees two laps to go. They didn't contest the sprint with Burnett crossing the line first, followed by Lewis and Cooke. They earn 5, 3 and 1 point respectively, all on offer for the lap.
The peloton crosses the finish line in Aspen and trails by 2:35.
Peter Sagan is the heavy favourite to win today's opening stage. Cyclingnews' Pat Malach spoke to Sagan's teammate Ted King prior to the start and he stated that since the state is under 100km in length then the finish will be a crapshoot because there's plenty of talent assembled here.
"To be honest, I think you'll see the GC guys get dropped and you'll see the sprinters make it to the line. That's the beast that is altitude.
"Certainly on paper it's a good stage for Peter and we'll try to make that happen."
The peloton has turned left onto Owl Creek Road while the break is making its way to the first KOM of the USA Pro Challenge
Lewis, Cooke and Burnett are working well together, all rotating through and sharing the load. Cannondale is leading the peloton.
Garmin-Sharp is also prominent near the head of the peloton. The US-based WorldTour squad calls Colorado home and they have 2012 USA Pro Challenge champion Christian Vande Velde on their roster, wearing race #1. Garmin has plenty of options with a very deep roster, likey the strongest top to bottom of any in the race.
While Vande Velde has downplayed his chances, the team is still chasing a repeat victory. Read about their assessment of the USA Pro Challenge here.
One of the members of the break, Craig Lewis, had a strong showing in the recent Tour of Utah. He was out on the attack on the stage 4 circuit race in Salt Lake City and was the last member of the break to be caught in the stage endgame. For his efforts he was awarded the most aggressive rider for the stage.
Sky's Chris Froome and Joe Dombrowski have slipped off the back of the peloton and Dombrowski is with the medical car. Dombrowski is now making his way back to the peloton with Froome pacing him. Not bad for a new-pro on the WorldTour level to be looked after by the current Tour de France champion.
The break has crossed the day's first KOM with Matt Cooke taking top honours. He was followed across the line by Lewis then Burnett.
Four places are up for grabs on category four climbs, so the rider that leads the peloton across will pick up the final 1 point.
Cooke's teammate Tyler Wren took the fourth and final place on the Snowmass KOM. 4,3,2 and 1 point are up for grabs at each KOM.
The gap to the break has dropped slightly to 1:55.
Cyclingnews' Pat Malach spoke to Sky's Ian Boswell before today's stage. "We've got a good team here, obviously and these guys are having a good time in the States.
"I think some of the guys who have been here at altitude a bit will want to make it a hard stage to put the hurt on the guys who just got here. On paper it's a stage for Sagan, as well as many other stages."
One of the memorable stage wins of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge was Rory Sutherland winning alone on Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder. Sutherland is back for his third USA Pro Challenge, this time as part of the WorldTour squad Saxo-Tinkoff. Read about his take on the 2013 edition of the race here.
The three-man break is nearing the second KOM situated 54.9km into the stage.
Matt Cooke again takes top honours in the KOM, followed by Lewis and Burnett.
Meanwhile riders are starting to be gapped off the back of the peloton as it approaches the KOM.
Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman) is a very strong climber and started this season without a pro contract. Midway through the year, however, Cooke was picked up by US-based Continental team Jamis-Hagens Berman. The 34-year-old American is in his sixth pro season and won the Mont-Megantic mountain finish stage at the 2012 Tour de Beauce.
The results of the second KOM were identical to the first: Cooke, Lewis, Burnett and Wren.
The break's gap is down to 1:30.
Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies director Jonas Carney spoke to Cyclingnews prior to today's stage and thought that the amount of riders arriving together at the finish would depend on how aggressively the stage was contested. As the stage is shaping up now, with a three-man break being kept in check, it's looking like we might see a bigger bunch sprint finale. The Optum squad has multiple fast finishers in Alex Candelario, Ken Hanson, Mike Friedman and Ryan Anderson so look to the US Continental squad to figure in a sprint finale.
Our leaders Lewis, Cooke and Burnett are nearing the end of the second circuit and will see one lap to go when they cross the finish line. The break is 2km from the finish line.
Garmin-Sharp's Andrew Talansky is making his first start at the USA Pro Challenge. The 24-year-old American finished 10th overall in his debut Tour de France this past July. Read about his thoughts on the Tour, the USA Pro Challenge as well as Chris Froome here.
Cannondale leads the peloton across the finish line, 1:35 behind the break. The break had passed through the finish line led across by Lewis.
The third member of the break, Ian Burnett (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), is a 26-year-old American in his fourth year as a professional. He's one of many Colorado riders in the peloton and calls Durango home. Jelly Belly is led by US pro champion Freddie Rodriguez who should figure prominently in a sprint finale today.
The break's gap has slipped to 1:15 as they climb to the day's third KOM at Snowmass.
The break is 72km into today's stage with a lead of 1:10 over the peloton.
The break sees 5km to the Snowmass KOM and their advantage is at 1:05
The field now sees 5km to the Snowmass KOM.
The winner of today's opening stage will also earn the first leader's jersey of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge. Who will it be?
The peloton has passed through the feed zone and the gap to the break is holding at 1:10.
Cannondale is still powering the peloton, working for their leader Peter Sagan.
Cooke is accelerating away from this breakaway companions in the approach to the day's third KOM...
Cooke wins the third KOM and has earnd the mountains jersey for his efforts off the front. Burnett crossed second, followed by Lewis.
And Richie Porte (Sky) led the peloton across the KOM line for fourth place.
Inside of 20km to go the break's lead is at one minute.
The pace is picking up in the peloton as the break's lead is down to 45 seconds.
The break sees the 15km to the finish marker.
RadioShack Leopard has now taken over the pace making in the peloton and the gap is down to 25 seconds.
Burnett has been dropped from the break
Burnett has been absorbed by the field as Lewis and Cooke remain together off the front with a tenuous lead.
Lewis is putting in a hard pull, trying to maintain the break's advantage.
Chris Froome (Sky) has been dropped from the peloton.
The break is at 12km to go and holds a 25-second lead.
About 25 riders have been dropped from the field while Cooke drops Lewis at the head of the race.
Craig Lewis has been caught by the peloton, leaving Matt Cooke alone off the front.
Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman is trying to make it a clean sweep of the day's four KOMs.
Cooke has crossed the day's final KOM alone and has 9.7km to go.
Cooke is refusing to yield, but the catch has almost been made by the peloton.
Just as the catch of Cooke was made an attack was launched from the peloton. There are now seven riders off the front: George Bennett (RadioShack Leopard), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Javier Mejías Leal (Novo Nordisk), Carter Jones (Bissell), Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Tom Zirbel (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
The break has 20 seconds on the field with Sky on the front.
The break has split with Bennett and Jones leading, followed by their five former companions.
Only Bennett and Jones are off the front as the five chasers have been caught at 5km to go.
The break's gap is holding at 20 seconds.
George Bennett and Carter Jones pass 3km to the finish with a 15-second lead.
The leaders see 2km to the finish with the gap closing.
BMC is leading the chase as the break has been caught at 1km to go.
BMC is working to set up Greg Van Avermaet.
Peter Sagan is well-placed out of the final turn.
And Peter Sagan turns on the afterburners to win the first stage at the USA Pro Challenge.
Unofficially Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)and Kiel Reijnan (UnitedHealthcare) round out the top three.
Stage 1 brief results:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling
2 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
3 Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
4 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard
5 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
Thank you for joining Cyclingnews on the opening day of racing at the USA Pro Challenge!