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USA Pro Challenge 2013: Stage 2

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Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 2 of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. It's a big day for the riders today: 202.9km and a huge climb up Independence Pass near the start, Hoosier Pass in the finale, as well as a shorter, steeper climb into Breckenridge. Lots of climbing at high altitude!

Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the USA Pro Challenge, stage 2 from Aspen to Breckenridge: a 202.9km mountainous affair. It's going to be a rocky ride with two major climbs!

Our race leader Peter Sagan of Cannondale - wearing the yellow jersey rather than the team's newest black kit - won't like the profile of today's stage very much. The green jersey is on the shoulders of Greg van Avermaet (BMC) - it's not his kind of day either. How about Matt Cooke (Jamis) who wears the KOM jersey? He told Cyclingnews "I feel great, but 10 minutes into that climb - Independence Pass - who knows?"

The reason that everyone is so concerned about the category 1 Independence Pass isn't just because it is about 15 miles long, it's because it climbs to 12,000ft (3700m) - there's not much oxygen up at that height!

The peloton is currently off for their neutral laps in Aspen - 2 laps around town of 5.3km total. The town has been extremely welcoming to the race, and we are all grateful for their hospitality.

Bontrager's Lawson Craddock is wearing the blue best young rider's jersey today - even though Sagan leads that competition as well as the points and overall. Craddock is second overall of the young riders.

It is a picture perfect day for a bike race here in Aspen: brilliant blue skies above the riders, temperatures in the high 70's F. The riders must be feeling good as there was a brief attack from the gun, however it was quickly neutralized.

We are hearing it was Ryota Nishizono (Champion System) who put in that short-lived attack.

The riders are not taking it easy at the moment, despite the daunting stage ahead: we can always count on Jens Voigt to attack, but other perennial aggressors are making moves: Marsh Cooper (Optum), Chris Jones and Jeff Louder (UHC), Danny Pate (Sky), Andrew Talansky (Garmin), Mathias Frank (BMC) and Tiago Machado have joined Voigt in a 15-man move.

That move was far too dangerous and was not allowed to go clear. All back together.

Riders have begun the ascent of Independence Pass, and who should attack but a Colombian? It's Robinson Eduardo Chalapud, but he doesn't get far.

BMC counter-attacks with Michael Schär.

192km remaining from 202km

Schär is solo off the front with nearly half a minute on the climb - it averages under 5% grade, so it's not especially steep, but the Swiss rider will surely want some company for the stage.

Schär should be well acclimated to the altitude and the time zone, as he raced at Tour of Utah as well. The Swiss champion has a couple riders trying to bridge to him, but he's not waiting.

Independence Pass climbs up to over 12,000 feet at the Continental Divide - the highest paved crossing of the divide.

Looks like Cooke is going to try and defend that mountains jersey after all. He's gone after Schaer and joined the Swiss champ, along with Jelly Belly's Luis Lemus.

Luis Davila Lemus is the Mexican National Champion.

Sky's Peter Kennaugh has abandoned the race. We hope there is nothing seriously wrong with the British rider.

UnitedHealthcare's Lucas Euser described today's stage, and all the rest, for Cyclingnews last week - you can find his take on today's stage here along with a map and profile.

186km remaining from 202km

This trio appears to be the Move Of The Day: Schär, Davila and Cooke have 2:20 by the last count.

178km remaining from 202km

The gap has gone up to 2:50 for our leading trio, but with such a long descent following the crest of the Continental Divide, it might be difficult for them to keep opening up the gap to the peloton. They still have a ways to go to the top.

The leaders should be seeing 5km to the top shortly. We're certain there is a bit of suffering going on back in the peloton. Andrew Talansky (Garmin) said that yesterday was a "shock to the system" when the peloton started going flat out. "Today is going to be hard for a lot of people based on yesterday's stage", he told Cyclingnews.

One of those who is suffering is Jamis' JJ Haedo. He's climbed off and ended his race.

Our Mexican champion, Davila Lemus, put in a strong ride at the Philly Classic in June - it's quite a different scenario from the long, sustained climbing of Colorado, but he's got class on the bike.

Davila Lemus just turned 21 in April, he's the youngest of our trio. Cooke is the oldest at 34, while Schar is halfway between them at (almost) 27.

We apologize for the lack of communication - the Cyclingnews blimp isn't allowed to fly at these altitudes, so we're having trouble getting information on the race. We know they must be either near the top or over the top of the Independence Pass. Cheung (Champion System) has abandoned.

Ahh ha! The leaders are indeed (finally) approaching the top of the climb, where large crowds have gathered to cheer them along. Our previous markers were incorrect by a few km.

Last year, the race took Independence Pass from the opposite direction en route to Aspen from Gunnison, so the climb was a bit more decisive for the overall. 

Here's a view of last year's race on Independence Pass

167km remaining from 202km

Cooke takes the top honours on the peak of Independence Pass, and adds 12 points to his lead in the mountains classification. Schar was second, while Davila had been dropped on the approach.

The descent from this side of the Continental Divide is steeper and trickier than the one that the racers have done the past two years. We've heard there may have been a crash in the peloton - stay tuned for more information.

It is a very fast descent to the sprint in Buena Vista. Davila is about 15 seconds behind the two leaders, trying to catch up on the descent.

The peloton has made up a bit of ground on our escapees - the gap is down under two minutes on this descent. Looks like Jamis was doing a lot of the work: at the KOM 1: Cooke, Schar and Davila were followed from the peloton by Tyler Wren and Ben Jacques-Maybes (Jamis-Hagens Berman), then Craig Lewis, our most aggressive rider, Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Carson Miller (Jamis), Jens Voigt (RadioShack) and finally Joe Dombrowski (Sky) in the points.

Correction, Schar took the maximum points over Cooke, but the American still got a few points over second placed Craig Lewis.

After the first KOM, Cooke leads the mountains classification by 13 points over Lewis.

146km remaining from 202km

The break actually went out - we had a bad split there for a moment. It's up to 5:50, but David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) and Kanstantin Siutsou (Sky) have attacked from the field and have a 20" gap. Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling) crashed on the descent but is back and riding.
 

We've just passed through the small hamlet of Twin Lakes and it seems the entire population of 216 was out to see the race. The break can see the Twin Lakes reservoir to its right.

139km remaining from 202km

Nic Hamilton (Jelly Belly) was the other rider to go down on the descent, but he got right back up. Vennell took a bit longer, but they're both riding.

It's really a lovely day - the white, puffy clouds are perfect for dreaming up animal shapes and there isn't even a whisper of a breeze.

The peloton isn't currently experiencing a sense of urgency. The bunch is spread across the road. Up ahead, the leaders are about to see 1km to the sprint.

I'm full of corrections today: the miles/kilometers confusion led me to believe we were nearing the sprint. That is not the case.

The two chasers, Millar and Siutsou, have gotten halfway to the break: currently they're 3:25 ahead of the bunch, while our trio is 7:25 ahead of the main bunch with race leader Sagan.

Well, well well - the break is up to 8:10, they've come out of the shelter of the hills and have gained a strong tailwind. It's helping them build up a bigger lead at the moment.

Breaking news: a source has stated that Swiss cycling has withdrawn its nomination of Pat McQuaid for UCI president. According to Daniel Benson, McQuaid denied the claim "I've not heard that and it's not correct. The case is on Thursday and I'll be in Zurich on that day with all the documentation."

129km remaining from 202km

The breakaway of three is hammering along highway 24, passing the Granite City limits with nearly a 9 minute lead. There are a grand total of five buildings in this "city". Saxo-Tinkoff and RadioShack are doing the chasing, but it's not doing much at the moment.

The peloton is just flying now - over 35mph - it's quite the sight. We haven't heard about our two chasers recently, but it will be hard to gain ground at these speeds.

The two chasers are seeing 5km to the feed zone, and they have made a little ground up on the trio in the lead: 2:50 to the duo.

Millar and Siutsou are both strong time trialists, so it's no surprise they are able to chase up to the leaders like this. The peloton behind seems to have lost interest in chasing for the time being. After all, we're not even halfway through the stage, and after the sprints it will be a long false flat, followed by a big climb.

Millar and Siutsou will be welcome companions for our three early breakaway riders: Cooke has to be tired after being in the breakaway on stage 1, and Davila already struggled on the climb. The long, lanky Schar isn't getting that much of a draft from his smaller companions. The chasers are now just over a minute behind.

Miller is riding like a motorcycle, just hammering up to the breakaway - the chasers have nearly got the three in sight.

116km remaining from 202km

85km into the stage, and our breakaway is now 5 riders! Millar, Siutsou, Schaer, Cooke and Davila. The peloton is about 6:40 and traveling down a long, wide, open road.

Two large raptors are perched atop a telephone pole watching the race go by. Some of these riders are thin, but hopefully not light enough to be carried away by an eagle.

The gap to the field is now 5:50, and Millar is having a chat with the driver of his team car.

A change in the wind is causing some difficulties for our breakaway - they're now facing a crosswind from the left, while the peloton still has that nice tailwind. As a result, the gap is down to 5:05.

108km remaining from 202km

Our breakaway has now arrived at the long awaited 5km to the first sprint sign, and have a 4:40 lead on the field. Looks like it's up to Millar, Siutsou and Schar to work in the break as Davila and Cooke are sitting on.

They pass by a big goat farm on the right - the billies just munch away and seem not to care about all the fuss.

104km remaining from 202km

The fans of Buena Vista have come out en masse, and are lining both sides of the road for the first sprint. The peloton is closing in - 4:15 from the breakaway.

The breakaway has hit the sprint.

The chase in the peloton is heating up and a group of 25-30 riders have been dropped into the gruppetto. The sprint was taken by Davila over Schär and Millar! Nice riding by the Mexican champion.

The breakaway had 3:55 at the sprint line, but they're now at the southernmost part of the stage and will being the trek north to Breckenridge. The change of winds could change the dynamic.

95km remaining from 202km

The wind has changed to a slight cross-tail wind, which could be good for our breakaway, which has passed the halfway point of the stage some 6km ago.

The change of the wind hasn't actually helped one bit. The break's lead is down to 3:10

The breakaway just passed basketball legend Bill Walton on the side of the road - he's out riding and cheering the race along. He's a big cycling enthusiast. Big, literally and figuratively.

91km remaining from 202km

We haven't gotten back to the peloton to see who is doing all this chasing, but someone is really out to get this breakaway. The gap has plummeted to 2:25.

The cars are being pulled from behind the breakaway - this is a bad sign for our five riders. Who will be the first to attack to try and stay clear?

We've received word that Novo Nordisk's Christopher Williams has abandoned. Nic Hamilton, who had a bike change, is back in the main field. It was no easy chase as the bunch is lined out single file.

UCI president Pat McQuaid has responded to the suggestion that a decision has already been taken by the Swiss Federation to withdraw its nomination of him for re-election. To quote, the news "is bullshit".

It is RadioShack and Cannondale driving the pace in the peloton, now pushing toward the breakaway just over a minute back. The news has inspired Davila to jump away from his companions, but it's a panic move.

Of course for the Continental riders, the most aggressive jersey is a big honour, so Lemus Davila is also seeking to earn that.

The pressure in the peloton has brought the break to within reach. Out the back goes Saxo's Jay McCarthy and into the team car, while off the front of the bunch goes Richie Porte (Sky). So much for post-Tour holiday? He's being joined by Damiano Caruso and Jens Voigt, but they can't get clear.

74km remaining from 202km

Lemus is the last rider to be absorbed as counter-attacks fly from the peloton.

A large group has attacked and gotten away from race leader Peter Sagan by 20" or so. It reportedly contains Andy Schleck, Michael Rogers, Jeff Louder and Lucas Euser (UHC) - who vowed to attack on this stage. There are a dozen or more up the road.

We're not sure if that move was fiction or fact, but our man in the caravan, Peter Hymas, seems to think Lemus Davila is still up front. Waiting on confirmation - coverage is spotty in this neck of the woods.

There is some activity in the peloton, but as of yet no new break has been established. We've got over 20km to go until the next sprint, and there is still the Hoosier Pass to think about. 

However, television coverage is starting soon, so expect the men-who-need-to-get-attention to start attacking.

When the video comes on, the viewers will be treated to a view of the peloton streaming through a wide-open valley with epic vistas into the beyond.

60km remaining from 202km

It's just the whistling wind, the grasslands, the open road and the peloton and all its hangers on at the moment.

A new group of 15 riders have a slight advantage.

Lemus Davila is back in the field after a flat front tire. The group of 13 or more riders is trying to get away - they'll need to distance Sagan on the long ascent to Hoosier Pass, as the last obstacle, Moonstone Road, is a short, steep kicker that could suit his capabilities.

The composition of our new attack:
Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp
Lachlan David Morton (USA) Garmin-Sharp
Joshua Edmondson (GBr) Sky Procycling
Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard
Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack Leopard
Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team
Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
Bruno Pires (Por) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
Chad Beyer (USA) Champion System
Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare
Phil Gaimon (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling
Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team
Tyler Wren (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman
Jesse Anthony (USA) Optum

The composition of our new attack:
Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp
Lachlan David Morton (USA) Garmin-Sharp
Joshua Edmondson (GBr) Sky Procycling
Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard
Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack Leopard
Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team
Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
Bruno Pires (Por) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
Chad Beyer (USA) Champion System
Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare
Phil Gaimon (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling
Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager Cycling Team
Tyler Wren (USA) Jamis-Hagens Berman
Jesse Anthony (USA) Optum

Interesting to note the presence of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) - second overall, does he think he can survive the climbs? Or is he going after his next sprint?

Jason McCartney (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling is attempting to bridge a gap of a minute as the group ahead has two minutes on the field.

Although the riders are looking around at each other, the group in front has managed a decent lead: it's up to four minutes now, but the peloton is lined out single file.

52km remaining from 202km

The riders will be heartened by the 50km to go sign that will be coming soon, but those final 50km aren't easy. It's a lot of climbing between here and there.

Back in the bunch, Sagan is chatting with his teammates - they are likely trying to assess whether or not he can contend today.

It's a barren landscape near the road - nothing by high grassland. It's very arid, and the riders will be very concerned with hydration. The cross-tailwind is helping to push the pace almost more than the riders' efforts.

Saxo-Tinkoff isn't happy with just Pires up the road and are chasing.

The solo chaser, Jason McCartney, or J-Mac as he is known, is sitting up and waiting for the field. He was 2:40 behind the break, only 1:20 on the field which is hovering at 4 minutes.

Craddock, our best young rider jersey wearer as second behind Sagan in that classification is also up in the move with points jersey holder Van Avermaet.

The breakaway is seeing 5km to the sprint - a little bit of fussing around with visiting team cars has lost them 30 seconds to the field.

Behind, there is a crash of two riders in the field.

47km remaining from 202km

Saxo-Tinkoff is chasing hard because Rory Sutherland is in 7th overall and keen to improve upon his single stage win in last year's race. He's well familiar with the roads here, having resided in Colorado.

I expect to see riders like Tyler Wren, Phil Gaimon and Chris Jones go on the attack after the sprint - the American teams want to please their sponsors here.

Oh dear, Optum's lost Ken Hanson to a crash in the field. He has abandoned.

The break is in Fairplay, the host town of the stage's second bonus sprint.

Van Avermaet has attacked for the points and is not being challenged by anyone - he has many bike lengths on the line.

It was Andy Schleck, that notable sprinter, who rolled through in second.

The peloton is led through the line 3:05 behind the break, with Saxo-Tinkoff still setting the pace.

Sprint 2 results: Greg Van Avermaet, Andy Schleck, Chad Beyer.

Yes I might snark a bit about Schleck getting sprint points, but he's been riding better and better as the season has gone along. He's one of only 17 riders on the same time as Sagan. Also on same time and in this breakaway is Lachlan Morton, Lawson Craddock and Van Avermaet.

The lead is now down to 2:30.

The breakaway is now cooperating with more of a sense of urgency - or at least they were. Beyer took a long pull, Gaimon, Machado, and Morton also doing turns, while Van Avermaet is riding a bit more conservatively.

There's still a lot of discussion between Frank and the BMC team car. Do they keep riding for the green jersey? Or do they consider Van Garderen's GC chances?

Sagan is riding along with his yellow jersey zipped most of the way down. It's good to see Ted King back on his wheel after his sad departure from the Tour de France with a separated shoulder.

Dennis has been dropped from the break as the too-big move is being split.

35km remaining from 202km

It's Beyer who is driving the pace as the road begins to tilt uphill more. Van Avermaet is sitting on his wheel, letting Gaimon and Morton, Jones and Craddock come through. The group came back together but it took effort.

33km remaining from 202km

Van Avermaet is having a snack, the feeding from the cars will be allowed for another 14km. The gap has stabilized at around 2:40.

Now Machado pushes the pace, with Craddock on his wheel.

Edmondson is now suffering at the back of the break, as is Gaimon.

Hostilities in the breakaway have been ceased for the moment, but it doesn't seem that some riders are happy with the ones not pulling through. Beyer is looking feisty, he's certainly been doing his part.

Now Morton, Beyer, Craddock lead the break with Van Avermaet and Schleck in tow. Machado has filtered back. 

Looks as if Edmondson and Gaimon have been dropped - now it's Wren, Villela and Machado hanging on by fingernails.

28km remaining from 202km

The riders are on their way up Hoosier Pass, and we're seeing some nice pine forests with their deep, rich dark green contrasting nicely with the rocky, tan soil.

26km remaining from 202km

Craddock is riding a nice tempo, and then Frank pulls through but Morton goes on the attack. He looks back and sees a gap - Radioshack leads the chase.

Morton has dealt well with altitude - he won a stage to Payson in the third stage of Tour of Utah and led the race for two days. He ultimately finished 14th overall.

Morton's Utah stage win was a solo attack, so he seems to be quite comfortable riding on his own. He's opened up a decent gap - 15 seconds with 25km to go.

The closer the race gets to Breckenridge, the more fans can be spotted on the road sides.  Morton will surely appreciate all the cheers he can get at this moment.

Morton has just 1km to go to the top of Hoosier Pass, but there are still another 23km to go after the top - the nice, quick descent and then a nasty little climb up through the neighborhood that gets steep.

Morton has a new license tag - in Utah it was "Chicks Dig Me" - today it's "No Problem".

Sorry - it was "chicks <3 me" - regardless... bits of the breakaway are being absorbed by the field as the chase is just 1:15 behind our solo leader.

Anthony and Jones are caught by the Saxo-Tinkoff train. Morton ahead is plummeting down the other side of Hoosier Pass going all the way from shoulder to shoulder on the highway.

The peloton is up and through the KOM, and they now face a descent which Morton is taking at upwards of 50mph.

We're now getting some gaps that make more sense - the peloton is at 2:00 with remnants of the breakaway at 15 seconds - not sure who was left in there.

Morton is tucked down with his torso on his top tube on a shallower part of the descent. There are some tight switchbacks and he has to brake, then get out of the saddle to re-accelerate.

19km remaining from 202km

Just 19km to go for Morton, and due to the fast descent we can't get in to see who's still in the gap.

Though Van Avermaet didn't seem to struggle too much with the altitude and the climbs in Utah, the tracker is showing the green jersey as in the peloton.

It's Craddock and Frank who were in the chase - they've joined Morton as he pulled up to the Garmin car for a feed- but.... we are inside the final 20km. That would be a penalty unless the officials have announced an exception.

15km remaining from 202km

The trio are cooperating and have a nice lead on the peloton - 2:10 at this point for Morton, Craddock and Frank.

Now UnitedHealthcare has come to the front and has strung out the peloton. Sagan is still in there, and it appears there's been a split in the bunch.

Van Garderen is also in this first peloton. Not sure what happened, whether the split came on the climb or the descent. Let's hope there weren't any incidents.

Now that the roads are flatter, we have determined that there is still part of the previous breakaway chasing behind our lead trio: Van Avermaet, Schleck, Machado, Beyer, Pires, Wren and Villella.

The Van Avermaet group is just 25 seconds ahead of the UHC-led peloton.

Correction: the gap to the peloton is 1:55, to the second group around one minute.

Why is UnitedHealthcare doing so much work? Maybe it's because they have faith in Kiel Reijnen. He won atop the Manayunk Wall in Philly, so the Moonstone Road climb will be good for him.

9km remaining from 202km

Under 10km to go and now the trio have 55 seconds on the chasers with the peloton at 1:20 - they're getting into Breckenridge proper now, and there are hundreds and thousands of fans lining the roads. Very impressive turnout.

The leading trio are heading to the final climb - it really pitches up between 6km to go and the final KOM at 4km remaining.

The race winds through the neighborhoods around Breckenridge, and it's a popular route for cycling - it even has "sharrows".

UHC is still doing all of the chasing.

We must be getting closet to the climb because the Colombians are moving up in the peloton.

6km remaining from 202km

6km to go and we're on the climb - the gradient is quite steep, and the leaders have 1:15 but it's going to fall - UHC and Garmin are at the front.

Why would Vande Velde and Danielson attack if Morton is at the front? Is it the lack of race radios?

Morton goes now as the fans close in and run along side.

Craddock is losing contact, but Frank follows Morton up the road, then counters - he distances the Garmin rider.

Morton digs deep and threads his way through the idiotic fans who are nearly blocking his way.

Frank goes over first, Morton follows a few seconds later and from the bunch it's none other than Sagan who attacks!

Amazing riding by Sagan, who has been at altitude for a few weeks. Van Garderen follows him over the KOM with a slight gap on the field.

Atapuma and Danielson are the second group behind Sagan and Van Garderen, while Frank has not been rejoined yet by Morton on this descent.

On the road it's Frank, Morton, Craddock somewhere in there, Sagan, Van Garderen, Danielson and Atapuma.

Morton is 5 seconds behind, while 30 seconds back is our race leader with Van Garderen.

Sagan and Van Garderen have passed Craddock and see the 1km to go banner, but they've still got 5.7km to go in actuality.

Well sorry for the confusion folks, the silly TV monitor said 5.7km to go!

Frank gets the win!

Morton takes second, while Sagan gets the sprint over Van Garderen.

It appears that Frank may have taken the race lead, but we'll wait for the official results.

It seems Morton did just enough to get yellow - Frank was 5" down on the first stage.

Frank is just two seconds behind

1 Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team 5:05:19
2 Lachlan David Morton (Aus) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:03
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:14
4 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:14
5 Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager 0:00:21
6 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:32
7 Darwin Atapuma (Col) Colombia 0:00:33
8 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:44
9 Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:00:44
10 George Bennett (NZl) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:44

General classification after stage 2

1 Lachlan David Morton (Aus) Garmin-Sharp 7:31:22
2 Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:00:02
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:11
4 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
5 Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager 0:00:18
6 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:29
7 Darwin Atapuma (Col) Colombia 0:00:35
8 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:41
9 Christopher Baldwin (USA) UnitedHealthcare
10 Gregore Brenes Obando (Crc) Champion System

Thank you for reading our live coverage of the USA Pro Challenge. We return again tomorrow for another big stage to Steamboat Springs.

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