Garmin-Sharp's Alex Howes came oh-so close to pulling off the win in his home state Monday at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, but he was beaten at the line in a two-up sprint with good friend and fellow Boulder resident Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare). It was a bittersweet moment for the 26-year-old who just recently finished his first Tour de France.
"At no point in time today did I think of giving it to him," Howes said of Reijnen. "But Kiel's one of my best friends and he deserved it. He owes me a coffee, but I'm disappointed. I came here with Tommy [Danielson] for the GC, and I believe in him 100 percent. But I got a very, very rare free card today and I tried to make the most of it."
Howes pounded his bars once the duo crossed the line, but he said if he had to lose a close race, there is no other rider he'd rather lose to than his Boulder training partner.
"When we sprint in training we're dead even," Howes said. "So it's just going to come down to tactics, and that bastard worked me over."
Despite the loss and frustration, Howes said he wouldn't do anything differently.
"I went on the kicker with 2k to go," he said. "I knew that downhill left was real tricky; I made sure to take a mental account of whether or not I had health insurance before I went into that. I just went full gas from there."
Full gas wasn't quite enough to shake Reijnen or hold him off in the sprint. The UnitedHealthcare rider was obviously happy with the result, especially because it came in a one-on-one battle with his good friend.
"It was a fair fight," Reijnen said. "And I'm really happy that he was on the podium with me. I actually threw up in that last kilometer. I think at one point Alex said, 'Come on Kiel,' and I was just trying to breathe. In that last turn I really felt like we both had it and we were both committed, it was just a matter of who had the kick."
Howes and Reijnen have been friends about five years, training together nearly every day when they are both back in Boulder. Howes said the pair have become fast friends because of their similar personalities.
"He's a weird guy, and I mean that in the best way," Howes said. "I'm a weird guy. We do a lot of fun things other than cycling, and we push each other on and off the bike. We push each other to train and learn about life, wax philosophically, do wood projects and smoke meat."
The pair also took up boxing in the off-season until their respective teams made them stop.
"We took a boxing class in the off-season and punched each other in the ring until our teams said that wasn't a good idea anymore," Howes said. "I guess we punched each other a little today."
The off-the-bike boxing match was a draw, Howes said, because they didn't get to do the full-on match. But he's hoping for a rematch.
"We only did a little bit of sparring, but we both had fat noses, fat lips and smiles," Howes said. "We'll get back after it when we get out from under the watchful eye of the teams."
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.
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