Acevedo on top of UCI Americas Tour ahead of USA Pro Challenge

In one long freefall from a mountain-top in the Tour of Utah last week, Jamis-Hagens Berman's Janier Acevedo simultaneously took over the lead in the UCI Americas Tour while proving his podium performance during May's Tour of California was no fluke. He is hoping to get a hat-trick of UCI stage race podiums at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.

Acevedo rode his way onto the final podium at the Tour of Utah on Sunday by hanging near the leaders up the Empire Pass climb on the final day of the UCI 2.1 race and then slinging himself to the front on the frenetic descent to the finish in Park City. He finished second on the stage behind Francisco Mancebo (5-hour Energy/Kenda) and claimed third place overall.

The 28-year-old climber from La Ceja, Colombia, now has a comfortable lead in the Americas Tour, a series of UCI races that take place in North and South America. Acevedo leads fellow Colombian Oscar Sanchez by 17 points. The Jamis team leader has earned points at the Tour of San Luis (UCI 2.1), Tour of the Gila (UCI 2.2), Tour of California (UCI 2.HC), and the Tour of Utah (UCI 2.1) so far this season. The USA Pro Challenge is a UCI 2.HC event.

With just four races remaining on the calendar, Acevedo is hoping to extend his lead in the competition and earn more UCI points in next week's USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, where he will be leading the team in the hunt for the overall general classification.

The Spanish-speaking rider told Cyclingnews through an interpreter that although his team has already surpassed its goals for the season, the squad will be looking to improve on those results next week Colorado.

“I am climbing super and I have all the team at my back to support me,” Acevedo said. “I should not ask for more this year, but I always want more. So while there is not pressure at all for our team, you can expect that we will fight side by side as we did during the year and at every race.”

Acevedo said he expects the GC battle to begin in earnest on stage 4 over the 165.6km route from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek. The riders will have to conquer the 18 percent grades of the Bachelor Gulch climb before a descent and then 2km finishing kicker to Beaver Creek Village.

“Stage 4 will make the first time gap on the GC contenders, and stage 5 will put everyone in a place,” Acevedo said of the fifth stage time trial in Vail. “I think it will be hard to change it after it.”

Although the general classification is a high priority for Jamis, another stage win like the one in California would also look good on the Colombian's palmares. But would he risk his overall placing for one day of glory on the podium's top step?

“We want to show what we can do as a team, we always do,” Acevedo said. “If we see a clear opportunity for a stage win, we will take the risk, but I like to go day by day and see how the team is responding.”

Acevedo burst onto the international scene in California when he out-climbed a handful of WorldTour riders to the top of the Tramway Climb outside of Palm Springs during stage 2. He wore yellow for three days before losing it to eventual winner Tejay van Garderen of BMC. Acevedo put in another world-class performance on the climb to the top of Mt. Diablo on the penultimate day in California to hang onto his overall podium finish.

Acevedo started his pro career in 2011 with the Colombian Gobernacion Indeportes team. He won stage 5 in Utah that year and was 16th overall in the inaugural Colorado race. He competed mostly in South America throughout 2012 and signed with Jamis-Hagens Berman in the off-season. He won the opening Mogollon stage of Silver City's Tour of the Gila in May and wore yellow until the final day. He followed the Gila with a domestic schedule with a focus toward the two big North American UCI races in August.

Acevedo's results this year have drawn the attention of media and fans in his home country, and division-one teams have doubtlessly taken notice as well. More eye-catching results in Colorado would certainly give him more chips to bargain with. The team was not invited to the Tour of Alberta in September, so Colorado will be Acevedo's last chance to make more headlines and possibly earn a spot on the Colombian team for worlds.

“I made a nice impact in the media in Colombia after the Tour of California,” he said. “I was considered a top climber there, but after that result there are a lot of more people watching me. I am one of the riders who may earn a spot to represent Colombia at the world championships. I am on the list of 15, and nine will participate in Italy this September.”

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.