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USA Pro Challenge 2013: Stage 3


Cyclingnews' live coverage of the USA Pro Challenge continues with stage 3, from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs, 170.4km.

Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. The peloton begins from Breckenridge at 9400ft and heads down to Steamboat Springs today, but it's not a simple ride. Rabbit Ears pass, a category 2 climb cresting with 33km to go will make things interesting.

The start time has been moved a little bit later today: 12:20 instead of the originally planned 12:10.

The peloton had a leisurely morning in Breckenridge, but there is sure to be a fight after our 9km neutral roll-out today. There are KOM points on the line, and Jamis's Matt Cooke will be hoping to protect his lead in the competition over Craig Lewis. Ben Jacques-Maynes, his teammate, told Cyclingnews that if Cooke goes, "the other riders might just say 'go for it if you want to beat your head against the wall three days in a row'. Probably better would be for a break to go and have non-KOM riders scoop points so he can have a rest."

Sky has lost another rider: Joe Dombrowski had to drop out because he was having too many nosebleeds because of the altitude and dry air. That sounds horrible.

Now that Dombrowski is out of the race, Sky told Cyclingnews they will focus on stage wins since Ian Boswell was their next best rider on GC at 2:43. The altitude has been affecting all of them - getting above 3,000m is no joke. It can be very bad for your health.

The riders are doing three neutral laps of Breckenridge for an enthusiastic and large bunch of fans lining the roads. They'll be heading out on course for the official start in a few minutes.

The peloton was fairly well decimated yesterday on Independence Pass: six riders ended up abandoning the stage. Optum lost its sprinter Ken Hanson. Team director Jonas Carney said "Hehas some deep lacerations and needs to stay off the bike for a few days. Honestly, his best shot for a win would have been in Denver and every day before that would have been trying to beat the time cut. We still have Ryan Anderson, Alex Candelario and Mike Friedman, who can still finish fast."

Darwin Atapuma (Colombia) snapped his chain in the neutral section and had to get a bike change. 

Yesterday's finale was one of the most exciting 10km of racing we've seen in a while: Mathias Frank (BMC) was impressive on the Moonstone Road climb to win the stage, but kudos go to Lachlan Morton to do just enough to take the race lead by just two seconds. Peter Sagan also put on an impressive display with Tejay van Garderen. Expect to see Sagan up fighting for the win again today.

Dombrowski was our only DNS this morning. There was confusion over George Bennett (RadioShack) - he failed to sign in and the officials figured he wasn't starting, but he's in the race.

The flag has dropped and Ben King (RadioShack) was the first to attack. He was caught, but they are flying downhill.

166km remaining from 170km

164km remaining from 170km

The field has taken that right turn - man, they are flying! - and the climb will kick in very quickly. It starts gently, but after a curve to the left it begins to get steeper and steeper. There are lots of fans lining the tight switchbacks.

The Jamis-Hagens Berman team has control of the front of the field, they are keen to protect the KOM jersey of Matt Cooke. They're keeping everything together at the moment. It's a short climb - not much more than 3km.

159km remaining from 170km

It's another fabulously beautiful day in Colorado - high, wispy clouds are punctuated by lower, white puffy ones with a backdrop of azure blue.

The climb isn't particularly steep - we'll get you those KOM results as soon as possible - but the descent is much steeper and twistier. A tricky one.

Everyone seems to be expecting today's stage to finish in a bunch sprint. Certainly riders will be feeling a little funny after sleeping at 3000m. For some reason high altitude seems to cause crazy dreams, or at the very least makes sleep difficult. There is also another big, big day tomorrow to save energy for.

Now that they're over that first KOM, it's time for our breakaway! Taking advantage of the climb was JoshEdmondson (Sky), Voigt, Villella, Wren and Tvetcov - they now have a minute as the peloton takes their nature break. 

150km remaining from 170km

147km remaining from 170km

Tvetcov is also the highest on GC of our five leaders - but he's almost six minutes down on Lachlan Morton's time - so Garmin is setting a medium tempo to keep him in reach.

Our Moldovan must have heard his name mentioned and been inspired - he took that sprint ahead of Voigt and Wren. The gap is 2:20 as the peloton hurtles through behind.

143km remaining from 170km

Our five leaders: Josh Edmondson (Sky) Jens Voigt (RadioShack), Davide Villella (Cannondale), Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman) and erghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) now have 2:35 just over 30km into today's stage. Only 140 more to go.

The breakaway is working smoothly together, powering down the flat, straight road - the surface is still wet from our sad little cloud's tears, but he's moved on to bring someone else down. 

We have quite a range of age and experience in the breakaway today: Tvetcov is 24, but has a number of pro years under his belt. Villella, who has been so eager in this race, is a trainee for Cannondale (sort of like an internship for cycling). He's only 22. Even younger is Edmondson, who just turned 21 in July. Tyler Wren is a decade older.

Someone ought to write a song called "cell phone wasteland" - because that's where we are at the moment. Last check, our leaders had 3:25 on the Garmin-led peloton, but we're not getting much else at the moment. Communication is spotty in the high mountains...

Oh dear, our sad cloud seems to like the attention and is following the breakaway, maybe it thinks it's just refreshing the riders - kind of like O'Brian's watering hole on Manayunk Wall. There is only blue sky on the horizon, however. 

Yesterday, it seems very few people thought that final climb would suit Sagan (except maybe for Cyclingnews) - he impressed BMC directeur Allan Peiper. About today's finish, Peiper said, "We’re looking for Van Avermaet today but Sagan will be there too. Who really knows what he can do after yesterday’s result?"

120km remaining from 170km

The road to Heeney Dam is a narrow, winding road. The terrain seems to be favoring the breakaway, the lead has crept up to 4:00 at last check.

The breakaway is being assisted by the feeding frenzy in the peloton. It's lunchtime, and there are plenty of riders dropping back to team cars. Perhaps they get a ham sandwich when they wanted turkey, so they drop back again. No - I wanted COKE!

Our Cyclingnews blimp just passed over a bald eagle's perch - the majestic creature looked very proud of himself. He is taking a break from fishing in the Green Mountain Resevoir, which is off to the right of our breakaway.

The route around the resevoir isn't simple - there are a number of short, punchy climbs forcing the riders to get up out of the saddle. Nobody is shirking their share of the work, however. 

The view of the Green Mountain Reservoir from this side is stunning - just like a postcard. There are a few cattle off to the right, lazing in the warm sun. The road ahead is carved into the side of a cliff face.

106km remaining from 170km

103km remaining from 170km

In fact, Voigt's legs see the 5km to the feed zone sign and send a signal up to the brain asking for a toasted salami sandwich with hot mustard. Or something German like that.

So why is Steamboat Springs called Steamboat Springs? It's not as if the Yampa River is conducive to such large ships... but apparently the spring itself, chugging up gas from its depth, sounded like a steamboat to the early settlers. After they'd forcibly removed the native Yampatikas Utes, they renamed the town.

The breakaway has reached the feed zone, they've got a 3:30 gap - so no "virtual lead" for Tvetcov yet. There's still plenty of racing to do, but Garmin doesn't seem to want to let things get out of hand.

The race is passing through what appears to be the middle of nowhere, but yet there  are still fans having a picnic on the roadside. Maybe they're really here to see the llama farm to the left of our peloton.

Larry Desjardin ‏@modularconx:

87km remaining from 170km

There are some spotty storms in the area, and there is a little sprinkle on the peloton at the moment. There are some angry clouds to the right of the riders. Hopefully the storms will move off before the finish.

Well, that shower was only enough to wet the roads down, but the rain has stopped. It's still status quo in the breakaway/peloton split department.

Oh - we've got a 4:24 gap to the breakaway now and they're just inside 1km to the sprint. Who will get the prize? 

81km remaining from 170km

I suspect that the breakaway have about 40km to enjoy that gap, and then on the climb of Rabbit Ears Pass it will begin to tumble.

So far the dopplar radar is clear over Steamboat Springs - the spotty showers appear to be near the current breakaway's position and to the south, so things should dry up from here on out.

Well, maybe the break will lose some of their lead now that they've had to 'answer the call of nature'. Wonder what that ringtone sounds like?

I've been remiss and haven't talked enough about Tyler Wren, who is representing Jamis in the break. He's one of the nicest guys you'll meet in the peloton. He isn't just a one-dimensional roadie, he also races cyclo-cross. He's a very good climber and hard worker of such value to the team he's been with the same organisation since 2003. 

Nathan Van Dyne ‏@NathanVanDyne:

>We have our first guess on the catch:

67km remaining from 170km

It might seem like we're standing still, but the peloton is actually on one of the quickest of the predicted average speeds for the day - the break is rolling along at a 25mph average.

Oh that's right - Edmondson is race bib #13, and out of superstition he's got the numbers pinned upside down. One day I suspect the UCI will make that practice illegal.

58km remaining from 170km

The break is heading into the hills - the sides of the road are rolling, scrub-covered mounds. It's a it of a false flat here. Tvetcov has a word with Voigt. 

Optum has started to lend a hand with the chasing from the peloton - they've put two guys on the front, thinking their best chance at a stage win might be a sprint today.

It looks like Voigt's legs are beginning to complain a little - he's riding mouth open, trying to capture the few oxygen molecules available.

It seems Voigt learned he was on television and he's gone on the attack!

Tvetcov helped to do the big job of pulling the German back to the break of five, but he goes again.

As a result of the antics, the gap to the peloton is down to 4:55. Edmondson is trying to bridge soloe, while Tvetcov and Wren have words about chasing.

Tvetcov is on the front, and looks like he's the strongest of the four chasers, but Voigt is big-ringing on the false flat, opening up his gap.

Wren is suffering with the pace of the chasers - he's lost contact by a bit, trying to hold on...

Now Tvetcov attacks - Edmondson goes after him, followed by Villella, with Wren bringing up the rear. They all come back together but Voigt has "flown the coop".

48km remaining from 170km

Voigt is on a false flat - or a climb before the official climb starts. The grade is still big-ring worthy, but his gap is falling to the field: 45 on the chase, 4:15 on the peloton.

Voigt is riding the white line - the tiny scrap of asphalt between the white line and the gravel, actually. Maybe he's working to correct his wacky wobbly style.

Now Argos-Shimano has put a man on the front of the chase. 

Voigt's Trek is painted up in the red, black and yellow of Germany. Emblazoned on the top tube is his motto. I suspect the legs are complaining now, so he might want to read from the script.

I wonder if he has a saying for his lungs? Because they're probably screaming at him right now that there isn't enough oxygen in the air. Maybe "go to hell lungs"?

44km remaining from 170km

Voigt loves to put on a show for the Americans. He won a stage in Tour of California earlier this year to Avila Beach. That was a much, much later breakaway. Here, he has 42km to go and a category two climb between himself and the finish. 

The German also soloed to victory in this race last year, on the stage from Aspen to Beaver Creek, so he's OK with going all out at altitude.

Voigt is on the climb now - at least according to the race bible. It's 7.9km to the top, but not terribly steep. He shouldn't fear the chasers, they've gone to 2:10 and are midway between Voigt and the bunch.

Edmondson has decided that he doesn't want to go back to the field with the rest of the chasers - as Voigt sees 5km to the top, the Sky rider attacks the chasers and goes solo in pursuit.

Last year when he won in Beaver Creek, Voigt was solo for some 100km or more, so perhaps 50km isn't very much to the German. He's got his team car there for water and seems happy to keep going.

Cannondale must think that Voigt's move is futile or at least want to make it so. They've come en masse to the head of the peloton.

It's a pursuit between Jens Voigt at the front and Ted King, chasing for the peloton. Right now King is winning - he's whittled the gap to 3:45. We're still waiting to hear whether Edmondson stayed away from the other chasers.

King gets releief from Juraj Sagan, while for Voigt up front, there is nothing but him, the empty road and his verbose legs.

The Rabbit Ears Pass has plenty of fans, some of whom have been up here since last night or early this morning to see the race. Voigt moves away from a line of people. The pavement is quite bad, which only makes it harder to keep momentum.

32km remaining from 170km

Voigt gets the KOM, powering across the line but then he still has to pedal for a while before he gets to rest on the descent.

US Pro champion Fred Rodriguez is up near the front of the peloton with a dizzying array of jelly beans depicted in red white and blue on his kit.

There is an injection of pace in the peloton from Jamis's Ben Jacques Maynes leading Cooke out for the KOM.

The gentlemen of the peloton don't challenge Cooke for the points, but we're still unclear as to who was still ahead.

At the top of Rabbit Ears Pass, Voigt had 1:55 on the chase and 3:35 on the field.

Bissell comes to the front of the peloton as they traverse the rolling plateau.

30km remaining from 170km

BMC is beginning to come together behind the Garmin train, but it's Cannondale at the front catching Tyler Wren. 

KOM 2: Voigt, Edmondson, Wren, Tvetcov, Cooke, Caruso and Danielson.

Voigt is all business, while in the peloton behind it's a feeding frenzy - bottles are being passed around as if it was a freshman year frat party.

27km remaining from 170km

24km remaining from 170km

Edmondson is in sight of the field, he radios back to let his team know he's there.

23km remaining from 170km

Voigt is on the proper descent, but is still having to pedal. It's not so steep, although there is a sign warning trucks to use low gears. Voigt tucks low onto his top tube to get as aerodynamic as possible.

Swedish champ Michael Olsson is helping to do the work bringing Voigt's lead down to 2:25. Cannondale, Argos, Optum all rolling through while Garmin keeps Morton safe just behind.

Where is UnitedHealthcare? We expect to see the 'blue train' forming. Cyclingnews spoke to Chris Jones this morning, who said, "We got third on Monday with Kiel, and we’re knocking at the door for a stage win. It’s going to happen. Kiel is good from a smaller group-strong man sprint, while Bazzana is more of a pure sprinter, so we have options."

13km remaining from 170km

Voigt can see the end of his respite - the descent stops up ahead and deposits him on a long, straight, flat highway. The peloton will be able to see him in the distance.

10km remaining from 170km

Two Optum riders follow a Cannondale man off the front but it's a brief split at best.

BMC is now moving up for Van Avermaet - he wants to get into the points jersey, but Sagan is still there with his entire team.

8km remaining from 170km

5km remaining from 170km

Still no organization - has the lack of oxygen interfered with the teams' ability to do math? They're running out of time to catch Voigt.

35 seconds and Bontrager is moving forward for Craddock. Fred Rodriguez is in the mix.

3km remaining from 170km

2km remaining from 170km

CRASH: Cannondale Optum and Argos on the floor.

It was inside the 3km mark, but Optum's Mike Friedman is not getting up very quickly.

1km remaining from 170km

Gretsch takes a huge pull, leaving Schar to take over

Van Avermaet hits the final 200 m a little too early on the front. Candelario goes, but Sagan is there.

Sagan comes like a rocket down the middle to get the stage win over an Argos rider.

Voigt sips a well-deserved coke after the stage, his work should earn him most aggressive rider of the stage.

It was Mezgec for Argos in 2nd, with Anderson, not Candelario in third.

Van Avermaet was fourth after sprinting too early, while Bazzana came in ahead of Colombian trackie Edwin Avila. Verschoor of Novo Nordisk in the next spot, with Gallopin, Tanner Putt and Caruso rounding out the top 10.

1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling
2 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Argos-Shimano
3 Ryan Anderson (Can) Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
5 Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
6 Edwin Alcibiades Avila Vanegas (Col) Colombia
7 Martijn Verschoor (Ned) Team Novo Nordisk
8 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard
9 Tanner Putt (USA) Bontrager
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling

We're glad to see Mike Friedman come across the line under his own power, but he's missing a lot of skin on his right shoulder and his jersey is shredded. He's a tough guy but that hurts.

Peter Sagan has extended his green jersey lead to 16 points over Van Avermaet. Cooke leads the KOM from Wren by 13 points, with Morton in third.

Stage 4 is the Queen Stage of the race, a huge climber's day to Beaver Creek. Join us then. Thanks for reading.

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