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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 7 of the USA Pro Challenge. The finale will take the riders on a 126km race from Boulder to Denver.
Good afternoon, we're out on the neutral laps in Boulder for the final stage of the USA Pro Challenge. It's a beautiful, sunny day, and that will be a relief to the riders who have been frozen the past two days by icy cold rain.
There are a lot of fans at the start in Boulder today - it's Sunday Brunch time, and all of the restaurants were heaving with people. Now, they're cheering as the riders tak on two neutral laps before the official start at 20th street.
The riders will have to contend with a brisk crosswind today, but once they get into Golden, they should be, well golden.
We're expecting that today's stage will end up in a bunch sprint. There is little chance of unseating yellow jersey holder Tejay van Garderen (BMC) today - he has 53 seconds on Tom Danielson, and although the climb to Lookout Mountain is hard, there are 86km after the climb that are flat.
Look for mountains leader Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis-Hagens Berman) to go for the sole mountain sprint today, while Kiel Reijnen will want to cement his lead in the sprint classification by going for the two intermediate sprints - in Golden, and in Denver with 4 laps to go.
Jonas Carney, director for the Optum team is hoping for a field sprint for Ryan Anderson. He told CN's Pat Malach that the race could explode going up 93.
"I think it will be a sprint, but it could be pretty crazy between here and the top of Lookout Mountain."
We're off for the real racing, and as expected the attacks are flying from the drop of the flag. The pace is really fast heading out of town, so it's hard for anything to get a gap.
The Bissell Devo riders have stacked the podium of the best young rider competition. Clement Chevrier has a 3:30 lead on his teammate Ruben Zepunkte, with Tanner Putt in third at 19 minutes.
A dozen riders have a slight advantage on the field, but they're responding quickly. They're heading through the construction zone on CO 93
Of course, one of the attackers is Jens Voigt (Trek), he's pulling a group away that includes a UHC rider, looks like it might be Ben Day, who is also retiring.
It looks like the field isn't interested in chasing. NetApp, Bissell, Drapac, Novo Nordisk, Garmin, Trek, Cannondale, UnitedHealthcare are all represented in the move.
It was Tiago Machado of NetApp who was up the road, he was joined by Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing), Caleb Fairly (Garmin-Sharp), Cameron Wurf (Cannondale), Adam Phelan (Drapac), Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk), Hugh Carthy (Rapha Condor), Jesse Anthony (Optum), Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Jonathan Freter (Jelly Belly), Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell)
Freter didn't last long in the breakaway, he's gone back to the field. The other riders up the road now have 20 seconds on the field.
There's been a tumble in the field, Ian Crane (Jamis) went down with a Novo Nordisk rider, but they're back up and rolling.
Pat Malach also spoke with BMC director Jackson Stewart this morning. he said. "I think some guys will try to get away on the climb, but there's enough time to make it exciting and being it back, and it will probably be a field sprint."
The 12 riders in the move have made it over the first lump on CO 93, and will have less of a tailwind over the top. Looks like BMC is taking responsibility for controlling the move now.
We have some decent time trialing power up front, of course Jens Voigt is a beast, but also Mick Rogers and Tiago Machado are forces to be reckoned with. Voigt is taking a big pull as they speed along this flat section of road.
Cameron Wurf has decided that he didn't care for the pace of Voigt and Rogers, and he's dropped back to the field, most likely to save his energy to pull this back together for his sprinter Elia Viviani.
If you recall, it was Viviani who denied the stage victory to Voigt in Colorado Springs. Will we see a repeat today?
We hear that Ian Crane (Jamis) has abandoned the race after that crash.
And then there were 11: the breakaway has 1:35, and to remind you it is Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jens Voigt (Trek), Caleb Fairly (Garmin-Sharp), Tiago Machado (NetApp-Enduray), Adam Phelan (Drapac), Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Javier Megias Leal (Novo Nordisk), Hugh Carthy (Rapha Condor JLT), Jesse Anthony (Optum), Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman) and Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell) who make up this move.
Wurf is indeed back in the field, up at the front with BMC to help control the breakaway. Meanwhile, up front Zepunkte is drilling it on a rise.
Pat Malach spoke to Boulder resident Taylor Phinney who was at the start to cheer on his BMC teammates.
"It might break up going into Golden if anybody gets really excited, but I think it will probably end up being a field sprint. I wouldn't look past Viviani for a 2nd stage win."
"I think everybody is pretty toast from a pretty hard week. I think you might see a big breakaway, but it will be hard for them to work together all day."
Phinney predicted that Jens Voigt would be in the breakaway, and he was right!
Most of the riders are rolling through smoothly, but we have a couple passengers: Jonny Clarke (UHC) is skipping pulls, and Jesse Anthony (Optum) sat one out, but both back to rolling through.
Zepunkte is looking pretty ambitious in this move, he gets a little gap with his effort on a slight climb, but decides not to keep going. The new gap is 1:50. He's in the move with his hero, fellow German Jens Voigt.
The team cars have moved up to the breakaway to support their riders. Kim Andersen is there to give more encouragement to Jens Voigt, who just yesterday, after slaying himself in the Vail time trial said, "Why do i keep doing this to myself??"
Yet, here he is, doing it again.
One rider in this breakaway who will be looking to impress is Fairly, the Garmin rider is without a contract in the new Garmin-Cannondale merger so far.
Huge cheers for the breakaway as they power through Golden.
The climb to Lookout Mountain will start for the breakaway very quickly - it's a category 3 ascent, beginning at km. 33 and ending 6.9km later.
The gap is starting to fall as the leaders are on the climb and the peloton is still flying through Golden.
Zepunkte and then Voigt drive the breakaway up the climb, much to the delight of the many fans on the Lookout Mountain road. The pace has sent Clarke packing, he's gone back to the field.
1:40 is the gap as Garmin takes to the front of the field.
Pat Malach spoke to Garmin director Charly Wegelius this morning, he said "There's a breeze blowing and there's a 9km climb, so ..."
But can Danielson get any time back on Van Garderen?
"I doubt it with distance to the finish line. But the race ends in Denver."
"We always have a plan."
The Garmin team's effort has put a big dent in the breakaway's advantage - it's down to 1:25
Let's see what this Garmin plan is all about: their rider in the breakaway has been dropped, as has Phelan and Cooke.
Garmin isn't doing any damage to the field, but they are whittling down the breakaway. Now Anthony is dropped with Carthy - they're trying to get back on.
There are big crowds at the top of the climb, we saw a lot of riders heading up this morning - all manner of bikes from tandems to kids to mountain bikers and BMX riders. They're all out to see the race come past.
Voigt is powering the breakaway up the climb there are still 3.5km to go to the top. Machado is hanging on the back.
In the field, Garmin isn't doing any damage, but they keep looking back to see how Van Garderen is going. He's just fine.
Tom Moses (Rapha Condor) has decided to climb in the team car - and he's so close to the finish of this race! It's a tough climb and the end of a very long week for the riders.
Jonny Clarke is swept up by the field, and we've had a correction to the gap. They were saying 45 seconds to the field, but are now showing 1:30.
Still 2km to the top for the breakaway, and the fans on the switchback above can see the riders coming up below.
Voigt and Rogers are doing most of the work on the climb, while Machado looks like he's on the limit at the back, but perhaps that's just his climbing style. He's riding like a boxer, bobbing and weaving.
There are some riders getting in trouble at the back of the peloton behind Garmin's pace, but none of them are Van Garderen.
We can only suspect that Garmin is trying to break up BMC and take over the teams classification.
The break has gone past the KOM line, and the field is just now going through it, but they aren't quite done climbing.
The field is about to pick up Jesse Anthony.
The breakaway is just about done with the climbing for today, and Zepunkte takes a pull across the flatter section. Soon enough, Rogers is back on the front to keep the pace high. They're holding 1:30 with 85km to go.
The breakaway will now hurtle down the hill back into Golden, where they will contest the first intermediate sprint of the day.
Garmin has succeeded in getting rid of Viviani, can the Cannondale team get back on terms on the long run-in to Denver?
Congratulations to Lizzie Armitstead on her win in the Swedish women's world cup today. You can find the race report here.
Garmin continues to pour on the pressure now that Cannondale has been left behind, but the breakaway is still able to keep a 1:20 lead thanks to the power of Rogers and Voigt, largely.
Reijnen has made it over the Lookout Mountain climb with the main peloton, so he will be pleased that Viviani isn't there. He's one of the fastest men in the bunch.
The descent is very fast and wide open. The breakaway riders are trying to get every bit of speed they can muster, tucking down low on their top tubes.
The Viviani group is 3:30 behind our leaders, so two minutes back from the Garmin-led peloton.
If you think back to the opening stage in Aspen, Garmin's Alex Howes was narrowly denied by Reijnen. Both riders are quick, and we expect that if Cannondale can't get back in, that these two might get another chance to spar at the finish in Denver.
The five riders have survived the descent with 1:15 on the field. They're heading back to the sprint, 2km to go.
There are some dicey bumps and turns heading to the sprint.
The guys who were in the breakaway, Anthony and Carthy, are struggling to hold onto the tail end of the field.
500m to the sprint for the leaders.
Rogers leads the breakaway with one minute on the field as they head out of Golden. We missed the sprint, but will get results for you soon. UnitedHealthcare has come to the front of the field for Reijnen.
The sprint results were: Voigt, Megias and Rogers.
UnitedHealthcare may want to pull the breakaway back to get Reijnen the 5 points in the line, but they're not making progress. The gap is 1:05 to the main peloton.
The Viviani group is still trailing over two minutes behind the peloton, and not making up any ground.
There are lots of fans of Jens Voigt lining the course today. It's his last day of racing in the professional peloton. We're wondering what he'll get up to next, because we sincerely doubt he's done punishing himself on a bike.
We put together a video of tributes to Voigt - you can watch it here.
The results from the KOM were:
1Jens Voigt (Ger) Trek Factory Racing
2Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo
3Ruben Zepuntke (Ger) Bissell Development Team
4Javier Megias Leal (Esp) Team Novo Nordisk
5Tiago Machado (Por) Team Netapp-Endura
The gap from the break to the bunch has gone up to 1:20 now as they head into the feed zone. The breakaway doesn't have any time to stop for lunch!
They just sail past the hard-working soigneurs who are holding out the mussettes and keep hammering along. The peloton might want a snack, however.
Rogers was the only rider in the break to take a mussette, the peloton is now going into hte feed zone on Kipling Street.
Sorry, the feedzone is on 26th Avenue, across from the lovely Crown Hill Lake.
They're also passing by the Olinger Crown Hill cemetery - it's enormous. Only 50km to go to the finish, but they'll be entering the finishing circuits in 7.5km, then they have four laps around Denver.
Machado and Megias are starting to show fatigue, but Rogers, Voigt and Zepunkte, the strong time trialists, are motoring along, still 1:30 on the peloton.
They have to negotiate a few quick turns, and Zepunkte opens up a gap in one that Voigt has to close down.
There's only a light breeze in Denver, nothing like the wind we saw in Boulder. But it's warm - hitting to 82 degrees at the finish, which is double the number the riders had to contend with in Vail.
The Vuelta a Espana is going on now, and today's stage was a big bunch sprint, won by FDJ's Nacer Bouhanni. We have a big gallery of images, full results and report up here.
The leaders can see the tall buildings of downtown Denver straight ahead of them, they're just about on the circuits.
Oh! The Cannondale team time trial has closed the gap, and they have the yellow jersey group in sight. The five riders ahead still have 1:30 on the field, but we expect that will come down soon.
The downtown circuit is wide open, but has a dozen or so turns, it's not terribly technical, and it's dead flat and fast. The relatively low altitude means the riders will feel a bit more peppy. They're on a fast pace today, thanks mainly to Voigt, who leads the breakaway to the line for the first of four circuits.
The roar of the crowd was deafening as the riders sped past the finish line, Rogers leads the breakaway out from the chute. Now the peloton comes past.
They've got a 3km stretch of 17th, then they do a loop in City Park, then head back along 17th, where they might be able to catch a glimpse of the peloton heading in the opposite direction.
The leaders are in the park, where there is a somewhat tight turn, Megias takes it wide around a post in the center of the road.
Optum is also driving the chase in the gruppetto with Cannondale, hoping to get Ryan Anderson back into contention for the stage win.
The peloton is now through the park, while the breakaway heads back to the finish line. Thousands of fans have come out to cheer them along 17th.
We have an attack from the field from Garmin as the leaders go through 1km to go for 3 laps to go.
The leaders have 50 seconds and Zepunkte leads across the line ahead of Voigt.
Voigt has decided it's time to go, and only Megias stays with him.
He's caught, and now Rogers counters, but nobody is getting away. This won't help their lead.
The five leaders are back together, and Rogers is getting some advice from the team car. They've still got 45 seconds on the Garmin/UHC-led peloton. We don't think Cannondale has managed to chase back on quite yet.
Rogers leads through City Park as their gap falls to just 40 seconds.
Voigt attacks again, now Megias is the only one to follow.
The three riders behind have already lost 15 seconds to the Voigt/Megias attack.
The two leaders are holding onto their original 40 second lead, but the other three have quickly headed back to the peloton.
The leaders have just 25 seconds left of their lead with 22km to go still. It's not looking good for a Voigt victory.
There is still no sign of the gruppetto and Garmin has control of the bunch with BMC just behind.
The gap is holding steady, 30 seconds for Voigt and Megias. It will be a long, long 19km for the pair.
Voit and Megias are powering along, still holding 30 seconds, incredibly. The green jersey is near the head of the peloton as they head through City Park. They'll all see 1 lap to go when they get back to the finish.
We're afraid it won't be Jensie's day, he and Megias have but 15 seconds with 15km to go, and Garmin wants to go for the stage win.
Just five seconds now for the dynamic duo out front, they'll be in sight of the peloton as they come through with 1km to go, if they aren't caught by then.
They take the left hand turn onto Colfax and the peloton is on their heels. The peloton is letting them dangle a little bit longer, they'll let Jens go through the line ahead for 1 lap to go.
Voigt leads through the line ahead of Megias, but the bunch is closing in on them now. Garmin is leading the bunch and Voigt looks behind to see how close they are. You can't give up yet, Jensie.
There is no way for Viviani's group to get back on terms, they're 2:45 behind the peloton.
Voigt and Megias surrender, and Voigt gets a pat on the back from a UHC rider as he heads backwards.
The peloton is sitting up for the moment, Garmin has stepped off, and we have a counter-attack from Jamis.
Zoidl is powering along, pulling out 5 seconds with 7k to go, the Jamis rider is just dangling at the front with one from UHC.
There's a rider from Tinkoff-Saxo trying to get across.
The chaser is closing in, the peloton has eased up. It's Poljanski with 5 seconds on the bunch, and Zoidl with 10.
Zoidl hazards a look back and sees Poljanski coming, but he can't afford to ease up to wait for him. The peloton is really moving.
The two leaders have 10 seconds with 3.7km to go.
BMC is driving the pace now, perhaps looking to set up Ben Hermans, who was third on the opening stage to Aspen.
The two leaders aren't going to stay clear for long. LEss than 5 seconds to the peloton with 2.7km to go.
We can't discount Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly), the third placed rider on GC has been mixing it up in the sprints.
The leaders are caught, but Poljanski isn't giving up!
Poljanksi is caught with 1700m to go.
BMC has the front now with Van Garderen in second wheel
Reijnen is sitting in 7th wheel behind BMC and his teammates.
BMC has the lead, but UHC is moving Reijnen up.
Carter Jones leads his sprinter through, then pulls off. Van Garderen goes, and here comes Reijnen!
Reijnen thinks he has it but Howes, his friend, comes past on his left and narrowly beats him to the line!
It was a very close sprint between Howes and Reijnen, but we are pretty sure Howes got it. He nearly crashed in the turn after the finish because he was busy celebrating.
Van Garderen takes home his second consecutive overall victory, while Reijnen wins the green jersey, Ben Jacques-Maynes the mountains classification and Clement Chevrier wins best young rider.
Van Garderen is also the top Colorado rider.
The BMC rider Kohler was third ahead of Tvetcov.
we apologize it was Schar for BMC in 3rd, with Tvetcov, then Majka, Van Garderen, Anthony, Bookwalter, Acevedo and Jones rounding out the top 10
1Alex Howes (USA) Garmin Sharp2:45:20
2Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team
3Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
4Serghei Tvetcov (Rom) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
5Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
6Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
7Jesse Anthony (USA) Optum Pro Cycling
8Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
9Javier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Col) Garmin Sharp
10Carter Jones (USA) Optum Pro Cycling
Final general classification
1Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 20:05:42
2Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Sharp 0:01:32
3Serghei Tvetcov (Rou) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 0:01:45
4Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:49
5Matthew Busche (USA) Trek Factory Racing 0:03:11
6Joseph Rosskopf (USA) Hincapie Sportswear Development 0:03:31
7Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team Netapp-Endura 0:03:35
8Carter Jones (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 0:03:43
9Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:03:44
10Bruno Pires (Por) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:05:35
Thanks for following along with Cyclingnews at the USA Pro Challenge. Don't forget to catch our live coverage for the next 3 weeks of the Vuelta a España!