It was a case of déjà vu for Brad White (UnitedHealthcare) and Jay Thomson (Bissell) today in Colorado, for just as the pair made the early break on stage 1 at the Tour of Utah, nearly two weeks later they found themselves on the attack and off the front for nearly the entire opening road stage at the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
White and Thomson, along with William Dickeson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) and Eduard Beltran (EPM-UNE), attacked not long after passing kilometre zero on the 159.9km route from Salida to Mt. Crested Butte and quickly gained more than four minutes on the peloton.
The field was content to let the lead quartet tackle the first high elevation summit of the seven-day Colorado stage race, the 11,315 foot Monarch Pass situated just 42.6km into the stage. The escapees rode together for nearly the entire 16.5km ascent, but with the mountains classification jersey to be awarded to the rider who crested the summit first, attacks would commence inside the final kilometre to the KOM line.
Beltran crossed the summit alone in first place, followed 20 seconds later by White and Thomson, while Dickeson trailed at 50 seconds.
"The Colombian looked the strongest on the climb," said Thomson. "He was playing with us, but he went so deep to go for the KOM that me and Brad, being bigger boys, went past him on the descent and he never got back on."
When White and Thomson completed the 16.5km, high-speed plummet off of Monarch Pass they faced a dilemma. They led Beltran and Dickeson, who caught the Colombian at the bottom of the descent, by approximately 20 seconds.
"We rode with in ourselves but he (Beltran) never came back," said Thomson. "Once we got a minute and half then two minutes [on Beltran, who had subsequently dropped Dickeson] we started riding harder. We were thinking about trying to stay away until the end. That is the point of trying to go in those breaks is to try and get coverage from the team and try and stay away before the bunch comes. It was great to find my legs again, it’s been a while."
Thomson's companion Brad White was also highly motivated today as his team's title sponsor, UnitedHealthcare, sponsored stage 1.
"It was good for me to get up the road and take some pressure off our team and Rory [Sutherland] has some GC ambitions here for sure," said Thomson. "I don't mind being in the peloton but it is one of my jobs to try and get in the breaks and if I am not in the breaks then I likely ride the front anyway, so either way I am going to be in the wind.
"UnitedHealthcare has done a great job sponsoring this race and sponsoring our team. They put on a lot of good events here in the US and it was good to get some TV time and thanks them for what they do for us."
The pair fought valiantly to fend off the peloton on the wide open, windswept latter portion of the stage, but ultimately were captured with approximately 14.5 kilometres to go. For his efforts on stage 1, White was awarded the most aggressive rider jersey.
While Thomson didn't garner any post-stage podium time for his lengthy stint on the attack, he has high hopes for breakaway success after tomorrow's queen stage.
"I think the chances of winning a stage might be easier than at Utah because with the queen stage coming up, the GC will get sorted out and they might let a group go away and I will look for those opportunities," said Thomson. "I would love to finish out my season this year with a win at something as big as this. I will keep on trying.
"It would have been great to get a jersey, but not getting a jersey, I'm still happy. Bissell came here to race and not just sit in the bunch and get ridden off at the finish. We had someone in the break all day and that is a job well done for the whole team."