Team SmartStop's Rob Britton timed his ascent into a podium position at the USA Pro Challenge well. After placing second in Friday's individual time trial behind race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC), the 30-year-old Canadian is third overall, 1:31 behind Dennis and 47 seconds behind BMC's Brent Bookwalter.
The most difficult stages at the race are clearly in the rear-view mirror, but Britton said he won't take his podium spot for granted until the peloton crosses the finish line in Denver on Sunday. But acknowledged the final stage usually ends in a bunch kick.
"I think tomorrow there are still opportunities for anything to happen," Britton said. "It's not a straight-forward stage, just like everything else."
Saturday's 164.5km stage from Loveland to Fort Collins is a lumpy affair, with the climb over Rist canyon presenting the major obstacle of the day. But crosswinds on Colorado's Front Range could add another dimension.
"You saw [on Thursday] Cannondale, with not much effort, put us in the gutter pretty quick," Britton said. "I think if it had been a few degrees more crosswind than it was, they could have caused a heck of a lot more damage than they did. So I don't think tomorrow will be a walk in the park. But I think tomorrow will be the last day to maybe shake things up a bit."
Britton's ride on Friday definitely shook things up. He started the day 11th overall, but his performance in the time trial, beating all but one of the highly touted WorldTour riders in the race, vaulted him onto the podium.
Bitton said the performance was the result of some long-range planning by him and his team.
"Even [at the Tour of Utah earlier this month] we were training specifically for this race," he said. "With just stage 2 having the uphill finish, today was really the one of the few places to make up time.
"A long way out I spent a lot of time on my time trial bike," he said. "I was warming down everyday on my time trial bike. The guys did a great job taking care of me all week, so I got here with just that little more gas in the tank."
Britton used that gas wisely, relying on his team director and information from teammates that went earlier in the day to pace himself in the early going and then up and over Moonstone Road, a significant climb that came 8.5km into the 13.5km route.
"We had Evan Huffman, my teammate, put in a pretty good time," he said. "So we had someone to pace off of. [Team director Mike] Creed is really good at ticking off time splits, and he had the bullhorn to yell at me, so I was really just listening to him and trying to listen to my body as much as I could."
The Team SmartStop leader said he approached the early stages of the time trial with a little less effort than he would normally expend in a flatter race of similar length.
"On the way out and back it was basically pacing as if it was five percent easier than what you'd do for a 13.5k time trial, just so you get to the base of Moonstone not loaded up," he said.
"It kicks up, and from there it's just put you head down and go and try to remember that the finish line isn't at the top of that climb. You still have a little kicker another 30 seconds after that, and then you kind of recover in the final kilometres."
Friday's result isn’t the first time Britton has performed well in Breckenridge. He finished third last year during the stage from Woodland Park. That day he finished behind Laurent Didier (Trek) and Janier Acevedo (Cannondale-Garmin) after making a late-race lead group that also included Cannondale-Garmin's Ben King.
His second place this year is obviously a notch higher, a trend Britton said he'd like to continue SmartStop rider grabs podium spot as race leaves the mountains
if the race revisits the small mountain town next year.
"I was third in Breckenridge last year, so maybe it's a Breckenridge thing," he said. "I like this place. If Breck is in the race next year I'd definitely like to keep the progression going, for sure."
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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.
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