USA Pro Challenge: Chevrier impresses on Monarch Mountain

Bissell Development Team's 22-year-old French rider Clément Chevrier found himself in heady company Wednesday during stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge.

Chevrier, wearing the blue argyle jersey of the race's best young rider, ascended the final category 2 climb among Tour de France veterans like Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) and Bartozs Huzarski (NetApp-Endura). Chevrier finished 10th on the stage and currently sits 11th overall, 1:23 behind race leader van Garderen.

"I'm pretty proud of my performance because I trained hard since the start of the season for Colorado," an exhausted Chevrier said after the stage. "I have this in my head, so it's good to be regular and I can see I improve during the year. So thanks to the program of races and the development of the team here."

Chevrier rode with French amateur squads VC Beauvision Oise and Chambéry CF through the 2013 season before signing with Axel Merckx's Bissell U23 team this year. He started his season with Bissell in impressive fashion, taking the overall win at the season-opening San Dimas Stage Race in Southern California.

He followed that result with 12th-place finishes at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour of the Gila before grabbing 25th at the Tour of California. He traveled back to France with Bissell for the Tour des Pays de Savoie, where he finished 13th overall. He kicked it up another notch at the Tour of Utah, where, as a stagiaire for Trek Factory Racing, he finished second in the best young rider competition to BMC racing's Dylan Teuns.

"He's been working hard all year," Merckx said. "I knew he had great potential and is a great climber. He rode in Utah with Trek Factory Racing as a stagiaire, and you could see he was getting better and better. It's just a matter of finding the right rhythm and the right opportunity, and I think he's got it here."

Wednesday in Colorado, Chevrier made the select front group of a dozen riders climbing up the category 1 ascent of Monarch Mountain, then made the selection again on the return trip after several circuits in the town of Salida.

"I'm really glad for him, because he's been working really hard and he's made a lot of sacrifices all year through travel to the US to really get better and have a shot at those hard races over here," Merckx said. "He's shown to everybody that he deserves to be here and he deserves to even move up because he's with the best climbers here. That's pretty impressive for his age."

So far this week, Chevrier has finished 18th in the Aspen circuit race, 11th during Stage 2's rain-deluged epic battle into Crested Butte, and 10th on Wednesday. He leads teammates Ruben Zepuntke and Tanner Putt in the young rider competition, giving Bissell a virtual stranglehold on that competition.

"It's pretty exciting," Merckx said. "The same with Tanner and Ruben. Those guys have surpassed themselves to stay with him and help him out, which makes a big difference. It's nice support for him to have those guys around."

Chevrier is clearly enjoying his time in the young rider's jersey, which he also wore in Utah for three stages. But the ambitious Frenchman has his sites set in an even bigger prize.

"It's a good thing to have the jersey because it's good for the team and good for the sponsor, but the big goal is just to be the best GC as possible," Chevrier said. "It's nice to be the best young rider, but the first goal now is to be in the top 10 GC in Denver."

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