Following a day for the breakaway opportunists during Friday's stage 5 road race at the USA Pro Challenge, the general classification contenders will take center stage again Saturday when the race returns to Vail for the stage 6 time trial on the penultimate day.
The mostly uphill route, which starts in downtown Vail and finishes near the top of Vail Pass, ascends more than 460 meters over 16.1km and finishes at 2,945 meters of elevation. The stage has been in three of the four editions of the race, and the largest margin of victory has been just four seconds.
BMC's Tejay van Garderen, this year's current race leader, successfully defend the yellow jersey there last year with a win over Garmin-Sharp's Andrew Talansky on the way to his first overall win at the race. Despite his recent success, van Garderen expects Saturday's stage to be another difficult test.
"Last year, even though I won it, I still feel like I got my pacing wrong because I really started to die there in the last kilometer and a half," he said. "If you look at the time splits between Talansky and I – Talansky was second on the day – I was like 30 seconds up on him and I finished only four seconds up on him. So I'm still trying to figure that out, and hopefully I'll get it right this time."
Talansky is racing at the Vuelta a Espana this year and won't be in Vail to challenge van Garderen again, but there should be plenty of contenders for both the stage win and a possible upset in the general classification.
Tinkoff-Saxo's Rafal Majka is currently sitting second overall in Colorado, just 20 seconds behind van Garderen. He finished seventh during the Giro d'Italia's uphill time trial in May, but when van Garderen and Majka went head-to-head in the 54km flat time trial at the Tour de France, the Tinkoff rider was four minutes slower than van Garderen.
Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis), third overall at just 37 seconds, is a two-time national time trial champion in his home country of Moldova and has found a lot of time trial success in domestic calendar events. But it's yet to be seen if he can compete with WorldTour riders like van Garderen in the discipline. The uphill trajectory of the race might also work against him; Tvetcov lost 1:37 to van Garderen on the same course last year.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) is 39 seconds behind van Garderen, while Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) is 51 seconds down. Danielson ceded more than a minute to van Garderen during the Vail stage last year, and Busche has never really shined in the race against the clock at this level.
Further down the general classification, Hincapie Sportswear's Joey Rosskopf, fifth overall at 1:14 down, is an accomplished time trialist and has been climbing well, so he could pull off a surprise result in Vail. Optum Pro Cycling's Carter Jones is currently seventh overall, just 1:22 off the lead pace, and he has also found success in similar stages.
"Carter time trials well at altitude," said Optum director Jonas Carney. "He time trials well when there's climbing, like at the Tour of the Gila this year, where he took the yellow jersey in the time trial. So we're hoping he has a good day."
Other contenders for the stage win include Laurent Didier, the Trek Factory Racing rider who won stage 5 in Breckenridge. Didier spent much of Friday's stage in the breakaway, however, and he might find himself a bit knackered after the effort.
Didier's teammate Jens Voigt, the soon-to-be-retired German rider who came up one 1km short of a stage win Thursday in Colorado Springs, said he had circled Saturday's time trial for another good effort.
"The Denver stage, there's a climb in there but it comes too early, so it's going to be a bunch kick," Voigt said in Colorado Springs. "It doesn't really make much sense to go there, so maybe I'll take it a little easy and then go for the TT. The legs are good, and maybe I can run a good place there. Maybe three, four, five, six I could do in the TT. We'll see."
Rich history on Vail course
Dating back to the Coors Classic in the 1980s and '90s, the time trial course in Vail has hosted some of the biggest names in American and international cycling. Giro d'Italia winner Andy Hampsten raced on the course, along with Tour de France winners Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond. Van Garderen said it's an honor to compete on the same roads.
"This sport is all about tradition," van Garderen said. "Some races date back 100 years. This is definitely an historic race because it was brought back from the old days of the Coors Classic. That's what people like to see. They like to see those old photos of the legends of cycling going up these roads, and it's a huge honor to be in the record books above names like Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond. That's something special."
Van Garderen has his own varied history with the Vail time trial. He wore yellow into the stage in 2011, when he finished a disappointing fifth, losing 51 seconds to Levi Leipheimer and ceding the race lead. Television images of van Garderen's emotional response were seared into the minds of many cycling fans, and perhaps even van Garderen himself.
Leipheimer went on to win the overall, and van Garderen had to be content with third and the jersey for best young rider. But van Garderen exorcized those demons last year, successfully defending his race lead in Vail and then taking the yellow jersey all the way through to the finish in Denver.
The BMC team leader said Friday that he has a "little bit" of nerves going into Saturday's individual test, but he's also confident.
"I think all the guys around me on GC, I've beaten in time trials before and I have a pretty comfortable margin," van Garderen said. "As long as I just stay calm I think I should be fine. I mean, even if I lose the stage, all I need to do really is manage the gap. So, yeah, I'm nervous but confident."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Start time|
|1||Aaron Perry (NZl) Team Novo Nordisk||13:05:00|
|2||Johnathan Freter (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis||13:06:00|
|3||Martijn Verschoor (Ned) Team Novo Nordisk||13:07:00|
|4||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Bissell Development Team||13:08:00|
|5||Scott Ambrose (NZl) Team Novo Nordisk||13:09:00|
|6||Mike Friedman (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:10:00|
|7||Jordan Kerby (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling||13:11:00|
|8||Michel Koch (Ger) Cannondale||13:12:00|
|9||Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team SmartStop||13:13:00|
|10||Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC Racing Team||13:14:00|
|11||Luis Romero Amaran (Cub) Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home||13:15:00|
|12||Steve Fisher (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis||13:16:00|
|13||Michael Cuming (GBr) Rapha Condor JLT||13:17:00|
|14||Leopold König (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura||13:18:00|
|15||Kristian House (GBr) Rapha Condor JLT||13:19:00|
|16||Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Team Netapp-Endura||13:20:00|
|17||Tom Moses (GBr) Rapha Condor JLT||13:21:00|
|18||Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale||13:22:00|
|19||Jesper Hansen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo||13:23:00|
|20||Charles Planet (Fra) Team Novo Nordisk||13:24:00|
|21||Elliott Porter (GBr) Rapha Condor JLT||13:25:00|
|22||Stephen Leece (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home||13:26:00|
|23||Toms Skujins (Lat) Hincapie Sportswear Development||13:27:00|
|24||Yannick Eijssen (Bel) BMC Racing Team||13:28:00|
|25||Bernard Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling||13:29:00|
|26||Alexander Candelario (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:30:00|
|27||Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling||13:31:00|
|28||Edward King (USA) Cannondale||13:32:00|
|29||Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling||13:33:00|
|30||Scott Zwizanski (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||13:34:00|
|31||Alan Marangoni (Ita) Cannondale||13:35:00|
|32||Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||13:36:00|
|33||Joonas Henttala (Fin) Team Novo Nordisk||13:37:00|
|34||Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||13:38:00|
|35||Gregory Daniel (USA) Bissell Development Team||13:39:00|
|36||Daniel Summerhill (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||13:40:00|
|37||Calvin Watson (Aus) Trek Factory Racing||13:41:00|
|38||Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Cannondale||13:42:00|
|39||Jacob Rathe (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis||13:43:00|
|40||Adam Phelan (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling||13:44:00|
|41||Ian Burnett (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis||13:45:00|
|42||Matt Cooke (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home||13:46:00|
|43||Zachary Bell (Can) Team SmartStop||13:47:00|
|44||Kirk Carlsen (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis||13:48:00|
|45||James Oram (NZl) Bissell Development Team||13:49:00|
|46||Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home||13:50:00|
|47||Joseph Lewis (Aus) Hincapie Sportswear Development||13:51:00|
|48||Darren Lapthorne (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling||13:52:00|
|49||Jeffry Louder (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||13:53:00|
|50||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Cannondale||13:54:00|
|51||Ian Crane (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home||13:55:00|
|52||Gavin Mannion (USA) Team Garmin-Sharp||13:56:00|
|53||Luis Enrique Davila (Mex) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis||13:57:00|
|54||Keegan Swirbul (USA) Bissell Development Team||13:58:00|
|55||Hayden Roulston (NZl) Trek Factory Racing||13:59:00|
|56||Michael Torckler (NZl) Team SmartStop||14:00:00|
|57||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Esp) Trek Factory Racing||14:01:00|
|58||Jai Crawford (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling||14:02:00|
|59||Thomas Dekker (Ned) Team Garmin-Sharp||14:03:00|
|60||Martin Kohler (Sui) BMC Racing Team||14:04:00|
|61||Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale||14:05:00|
|62||Tyler Magner (USA) Hincapie Sportswear Development||14:06:00|
|63||Carson Miller (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home||14:07:00|
|64||Bjorn Selander (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||14:08:00|
|65||Cameron Wurf (Aus) Cannondale||14:09:00|
|66||Benjamin Day (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||14:10:00|
|67||Oscar Clark (USA) Hincapie Sportswear Development||14:11:00|
|68||Caleb Fairly (USA) Team Garmin-Sharp||14:12:00|
|69||Robin Carpenter (USA) Hincapie Sportswear Development||14:13:00|
|70||Daniel Eaton (USA) Bissell Development Team||14:14:00|
|71||Jesse Anthony (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||14:15:00|
|72||Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||14:16:00|
|73||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Team Netapp-Endura||14:17:00|
|74||Edward Beltran Suarez (Col) Tinkoff-Saxo||14:18:00|
|75||Gregor Muhlberger (Aut) Team Netapp-Endura||14:19:00|
|76||Hugh Carthy (GBr) Rapha Condor JLT||14:20:00|
|77||Dion Smith (NZl) Hincapie Sportswear Development||14:21:00|
|78||Richard Handley (GBr) Rapha Condor JLT||14:22:00|
|79||Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo||14:23:00|
|80||Jose Joao Pimenta Costa Mendes (Por) Team Netapp-Endura||14:24:00|
|81||Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo||14:25:00|
|82||Tom Zirbel (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||14:26:00|
|83||Lachlan Norris (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling||14:27:00|
|84||Ryan Anderson (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||14:28:00|
|85||Tiago Machado (Por) Team Netapp-Endura||14:29:00|
|86||Phillip Gaimon (USA) Team Garmin-Sharp||14:30:00|
|87||Javier Megias Leal (Esp) Team Novo Nordisk||14:31:00|
|88||Tanner Putt (USA) Bissell Development Team||14:32:00|
|89||Laurent Didier (Lux) Trek Factory Racing||14:33:00|
|90||Robbie Squire (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home||14:34:00|
|91||Jens Voigt (Ger) Trek Factory Racing||14:35:00|
|92||Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop||14:36:00|
|93||David de la Cruz Melgarejo (Esp) Team Netapp-Endura||14:37:00|
|94||Peter Stetina (USA) BMC Racing Team||14:38:00|
|95||Chris Butler (USA) Hincapie Sportswear Development||14:39:00|
|96||Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team||14:40:00|
|97||Benjamin King (USA) Team Garmin-Sharp||14:41:00|
|98||Michael Schär (Sui) BMC Racing Team||14:42:00|
|99||Janier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Col) Team Garmin-Sharp||14:44:00|
|100||Daniel Alexander Jaramillo Diez (Col) Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home||14:46:00|
|101||Ruben Zepuntke (Ger) Bissell Development Team||14:48:00|
|102||Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing||14:50:00|
|103||Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo||14:52:00|
|104||Riccardo Zoidl (Aut) Trek Factory Racing||14:54:00|
|105||Lucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling||14:56:00|
|106||Clement Chevrier (Fra) Bissell Development Team||14:58:00|
|107||Bruno Pires (Por) Tinkoff-Saxo||15:00:00|
|108||Alex Howes (USA) Team Garmin-Sharp||15:02:00|
|109||Julian Kyer (USA) Team SmartStop||15:04:00|
|110||Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team||15:06:00|
|111||Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team Netapp-Endura||15:08:00|
|112||Carter Jones (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||15:10:00|
|113||Joseph Rosskopf (USA) Hincapie Sportswear Development||15:12:00|
|114||Matthew Busche (USA) Trek Factory Racing||15:14:00|
|115||Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Sharp||15:16:00|
|116||Serghei Tvetcov (Rou) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis||15:18:00|
|117||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo||15:20:00|
|118||Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||15:22:00|