More than half of 163km stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge was raced above 10,000ft. The climbing commenced from the drop of the flag, but different to Tuesday, the peloton was a little more subdued going out of the gates, somewhat cautious of what lay ahead of them. Nine riders eventually forced clear over the top of the first KOM, in it, 2 riders within 1:30 of the general classification lead. BMC would need to keep the break on a short “leash”.
Starting at 107km and peaking at 131km and 3678 meters (12,065ft) of elevation, this climb was a real lung-buster. There is no easy way up this climb. The race has been won and lost here plenty of times before, but for those who persist, there are opportunities to catch back on during the long and fast descent into Aspen.
On this particular day, the right hand turn towards Twin Lakes and the base of Independence Pass saw the riders start working into a decent headwind, making it tougher for the riders on the front, yet easier for the riders on the wheel and shaping the tactics. BMC and UnitedHealthcare put their riders up front to sacrifice themselves for their respective team leaders, hedging bets on their team’s best chance of success. This is the beauty of cycling – one for all and all for one.
Kiel Reijnen’s UnitedHealthcare’s teammates, Marco Canola and Jani Brakovic, waited for him once over the crest of Independence Pass, fore going their own chances of success and pain-preservation, and proceeded to chase the front group of 13 riders full gas. Once there, they delivered the perfect lead out and Reijnen took his second victory in Aspen at the USA Pro Challenge, but on very different courses.
Canola spoke of Reijnen’s intense motivation for this race and the importance of the team working as one tight unit in order to be collectively successful. We grabbed both of their Pioneer power files post stage.
With Marco’s file, you can see how difficult the stage was already from the first climb, with him spending the first 20minutes at nearly 320W – try doing that at 3400meters (11,000ft)! Onto Independence Pass, his final 20 minutes were also at 320W but the altitude was getting even higher – 3678meters (12,065ft).
You can see on the file that at the beginning of the descent, Canola was taking it easy, waiting for Reijnen to latch onto his wheel, hook up teammate Brajkovic and go in hot pursuit of the front group. Canola led Reijnen through the final turns and started his leadout averaging 20seconds at 685W.
Interestingly, you can see that Kiel’s hi-definition power pedaling data showed that in his laborious efforts up Independence Pass, his pedaling efficiency was at 48%, whilst during the final sprint, he was delivering power more effectively with a pedaling efficiency of 63%.
In the sprint, you can clearly see how Kiel had to accelerate hard out of the corner to come back to the wheel of Logan Owen before kicking again and actually sprinting to the line seated. This effort lasted for 19 seconds at 913W and with a top speed of 70.3km/h (44mph) to take the stage victory.
Stage 4 challenges the riders to ride up and over Independence Pass again from Aspen to Breckenridge. The stage includes category one, two and three climbs, all at high altitude. Interestingly. The category three climb could be one of the most decisive of the entire race. Be sure to tune in.
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