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USA Pro Challenge 2014: Stage 3

Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge.

Thanks for joining us for stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge.  Today's stage runs from Gunnison to Monarch Mountain over 155km.

There's sunny weather here today at the start in Gunnison.

Riders will face crosswinds immediately after they head out of town.

Alex Howes (Team Garmin-Sharp) is the leader of the general classification heading into today's stage. He has an 11-second advantage over Ben Hermans (BMC Racing Team) an12-second lead over Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team).

They are starting out fast - at 40mph... no time for a slow warm-up today.

The run out of Salida follows the Tomichi Creek, a lovely little stream that snakes its way through the valley on the way to Monarch Pass. The mountains are a lovely shade of green thanks to all the rain.

The climb of Monarch Pass is not very steep - it kicks up to an average of 6%, but the peloton will have to climb 3000 feet or so.

Luckily for the riders, the dark clouds and drizzle of the morning has pushed off, and it's sunny at the finish on Monarch Mountain. It's still pretty cold, so if it does rain they'll be suffering again today.

148km remaining from 155km

The field is spread out, nobody is on the attack quite yet. We'll look for UnitedHealthcare to patrol the front again today, because they want the green jersey for Kiel Reijnen, and the two sprints today are after the first climb over Monarch Pass.

Or, maybe they'll send Reijnen up the road - there are about 20 riders getting a small gap.

It's feasible that Reijnen could stick with the bunch for the first climb, the way up to Monarch Pass from this side is shorter than the way up from Salida. From Salida it's 4300 feet of climbing.

145km remaining from 155km

The split has been reabsorbed, and the peloton is really flying along. They're passing lovely green fields with cows dotting the hillsides, lazily chewing their cud.

We have one rider from Trek up the road now, with a slight advantage. The road tilts ever so gently up, cresting several rises along the highway to the Monarch Pass.

If you've ever thought that covering bike races was glamorous, you'll be glad to know that Cyclingnews is reporting from a windowless concrete bunker at the top of the mountain today, and from the media car where motion sickness bags will be de rigueur today.

141km remaining from 155km

About 15km into today's stage, and we may actually have our breakaway. 10 riders have an advantage. The field isn't quite ready to let it go as riders try to get across.

On the way up to the mountain today, there was a skunk that had met with an unfortunate fate somewhere before the 30km mark. We hope the marshalls scooped it up off the road at least. It was ... fragrant.

The field is all back together again as they pass by the Gunnison Valley Garbage disposal service.

It seems as if the peloton might stick together until the climb today. The route to the base of it isn't that selective, and the wind will hamper their efforts.

Pat Malach spoke with Garmin's Ben King this morning. He was coy about whether they would defend Alex Howes' yellow today. But he did say "We are going to do bad things to good people."
 

There are hundreds of people waiting for the peloton at the first mountain sprint - and at the top at the finish, the Salida Circus is entertaining the crowds with acrobats walking around on 10-foot high stilts, dressed in medieval garb.

The finishing town organisers have also festooned the entire ski resort in white with red polka dot decorations, and are handing out spotted paper crowns to the fans. The media room also looks like it has a really bad case of the measles.

We're sorry for the lack of information today - there's no radio Tour at the moment, no cell phone or sat phone signals going and so we're flying blind.

Met someone special this morning http://t.co/raiDGlM2Vm

@Laura_Weislo Wed, 20th Aug 2014 19:17:26

122km remaining from 155km

We're more than 30km into today's stage, and still no breakaways that we are aware of. The climb itself starts kicking up after the 50km point.

Chris Jones (UHC) and Tinkoff-Saxo's Jesper Hansen had to change bikes. I hope they didn't run over that skunk corpse.

105km remaining from 155km

Whoops, we lost internet at the finish, but we're back and the field is all together at the base of the climb.

We have an attack of two riders immediately as the climb begins.

It's going to be a fast and furious climb to Monarch Pass. We have four riders trying to get away.

101km remaining from 155km

Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp) is away solo with 15 seconds.

"Bad things will happen to good people" indeed, Acevedo has half a minute already, and is hammering away from the field.

The Colombian has been doing his teamwork all year, not getting out in the spotlight like he did when he was with Jamis and won the Palm Springs stage in Tour of California, could this be his day to shine?

The field is shattering behind the forceful pace of Acevedo.

Thankfully the sunshine is holding over Monarch Pass - the temperatures are quite cool. Rain would make for more misery, but probably not the situation we had yesterday.

Acevedo has 50 seconds now as the field behind still has leader Howes and Danielson, but mountains leader Ben Jacques-Maynes has been dropped

The yellow jersey group is now a minute behind Acevedo, most of the teams are still represented in the group behind him.

Cannondale and Garmin have officially announced their merger (finally). The rumors have been flying since the Tour de France.

Unfortunately, the announcement says nothing about which riders will go where. We had some information posted a while back about the rumors.

Maybe Acevedo is auditioning for a job opening? He's certainly putting on a performance here, he has 1:10 on the bunch.

The story on the Cannondale/Garmin merger is here. What do you think? You can share your opinions in the comments section below the story.

Acevedo's gap is at 1:05 now.

93km remaining from 155km

The leader has passed the 5km to the KOM, and the peloton just passed it too. The yellow jersey group has shattered, but no word on who is forcing the pace. Acevedo was at 1:54 this morning.

Only 11 riders remain in the first group chasing Acevedo.

The group behind Acevedo contains:

Van Garderen and Hermans (BMC), Majka and Rogers and Poljanski (Tinkoff-Saxo), Frank Schleck (Trek), Tom Danielson (Garmin), Huzarski (NetApp), Lucas Euser (UHC), Carter Jones (Optum) and Clement Chevrier (Bissell)

They've caught Acevedo.

Schleck, Euser, Huzarski and Chevrier have lost contact now. It's now the eight riders up front: Van Garderen, Hermans, Majka, Rogers, Poljanski, Danielson, Acevedo, and Jones.

88km remaining from 155km

The sun is shining down on the leading group as they head up to the KOM, it's a fast, wide open descent down into Salida, so there may be a regrouping after the climb, but it won't be the whole peloton because there is only 20km of flat roads before they turn around and start climbing again.

1km to go to the KOM.

Van Garderen is wearing the blue Best Colorado rider jersey today. Alex Howes led that competition too, but he's in yellow for now.

There are lots of fans crowding the road as they head up to the KOM sprint . Hermans attacks, Acevedo goes with him.

Hermans gets the points over Danielson, actually, then the Garmin rider gets a feed and gets ready for the long, cold descent.

Chase 1 is just 30 seconds behind, we presume that's Euser, Huzarski, Schleck and Chevrier. We will get confirmation soon.

The yellow jersey group behind is 1:15 down the mountain, as the leaders get into deep aero tucks and hurtle down the road.

KOM results: Hermans, Danielson, Poljanski, Majka, Van Garderen, Rogers, Acevedo, and Jones, followed by Bookwalter who is in the chasing group.

The yellow jersey has ballooned and Bookwalter was in that large chasing group. He's gone back to the team car and is feeding while they descend at probably 80kph,. That's a pro move.

The story on the Garmin-Cannondale merger is here now.

Aside from Bookwalter, the chase group contains Pires, Voigt, Schleck, Busche, Didier, Zoidl, Huzarski, Kyer, Rosskopf, Jaramillo, Tvetcov and Chevrier.

They're making up ground on the leaders, now 50 seconds behind.

74km remaining from 155km

We should see those two groups come together> The leaders have 5km to the feed zone at km. 86.1.

Hermans' win on that KOM moves him up into 3rd in the mountains classification with 17 points, behind Carpenter (18) and Jacques-Maynes (23). At the finish, there are 10 points available on the line, so he could take that jersey if he gets 4th or better.

Of course, if Hermans gets 4th or better, he might be in the race lead. He was only 11 seconds down on Howes at the start of today.

Again, the sun is still shining and the riders must be enjoying that after the icy cold rain they endured yesterday. They're speeding along, now on flatter roads toward the bottom of this descent. The leaders are getting food from their team cars but still working hard to maintain their gap.

Behind them there's a concerted chase going on from the Trek riders. They have six in this group.

Acevedo is pulling hard for Danielson, although the team has Howes in the jersey, they clearly want to get room between Danielson and Busche, who was one spot ahead on GC this morning.

Meanwhile, the Tinkoff-Saxo guys are getting a free ride. Will we see Rafal Majka work his magic on this final climb? He's 32 seconds down on Howes, and more importantly 20 down on Hermans, 19 on Van Garderen and 10 seconds down on Danielson right now.

Behind the yellow jersey group, poor Rob Britton (SmarStop) is in no man's land, he's 1:20 ahead of the gruppetto, but still 55 seconds behind the first chase and 1:40 down on the leaders. He started the day at 29 seconds on GC. Luckily his teammate Kyer is up front in chase 1.

60km remaining from 155km

the leaders have some 60km left to race, and they are now on wide open, windswept fields en route to Salida. It's pronounced sa-LIE-duh, because we're American.

The riders have two laps of about 14km each when they get into Salida, there are two intermediate sprints with 5, 3 and 1 points. There are no bonus seconds.

The leaders are in Salida now, where there are more trees and shade, plenty of enthusiastic fans and more twists and turns. 

The first sprint comes with 48.4km to go. The chasing group has closed to 40 seconds now.

Acevedo spent a few years racing in the USA, where criteriums abound, and he takes to the front to lead the first group around this circuit.

Behind, Trek is doing a team time trial to try to close the gap to the front group. But they are also towing the maillot jaune back to the front, where he has two teammates.

The Salida circuit isn't exactly flat, the leaders having to get out of the saddle to power up a rise in town.

There's an attack in the front group as the chasers get very close. Acevedo drills it, and Poljanski and Hermans follow, taking the sprint points. Behind, Rogers sits up and goes back to the field.

Actually, the attack came from Rogers, the rest of the lead group was absorbed by the chase, and now our triple Grand Tour stage winner is forging ahead alone.

49km remaining from 155km

Rogers has 25 seconds on the chasing group, and he's in full time trial mode. He has another 15km to the next sprint and might get to see the gruppetto along the way.

Salida is an old frontier town. The Arkansas River cuts through it, and it used to be the dividing point between Spanish and French territory prior to the Louisiana Purchase. One of the first railroads came through here.

Now, the town is a white water, kayaking and rafting mecca, and is also very popular for mountain biking.

Today, Rogers is finding it very suitable for time trialing. He's signed a two-year contract with Tinkoff-Saxo. You can read more about him here.

 

BMC is now leading the chasing group. They are not as interested in keeping Rogers from gaining time (he's at 5:39 on GC), but they want the stage win. They've been denied twice so far.

Back in the field, Lucas Euser has attacked with Daniel Jaramillo (Jamis)

44km remaining from 155km

Rogers still has 44.3km to go. That's one really long time trial! He's committed, though. Jaramillo and Euser have only a slight advantage on the chasing group.

Whoo, if by "slight advantage" you mean, two minutes. Euser and Jaramillo are briding to Rogers, only 25 seconds behind, while the yellow jersey group behind is in danger of being caught by the gruppetto.

That was a mistake on the part of the race radio, the two riders chasing Rogers are really 1:10 behind him, while the yellow jersey group is at 1:30. So it is a slight advantage. The gruppetto is at 3:30.

32km remaining from 155km

The sprint went to Rogers, with Euser and Jaramillo behind, and now everyone is on their way back to the mountain with just over 32km to go.

It's all uphill from here for the leaders. Jaramillo and Euser are still working together but not making any progress on closing the gap to Rogers, whose class is one step above. The guy has three Grand Tour stage wins this year, and three world TT titles to his name.

The route to the finish is nothing but climbing from here. It's 3500 feet up over the next 30km.

Our yellow jersey holder Alex Howes is sitting behind his Garmin-Sharp teammates. They can sit back and rest, as BMC forces the pace in this group.

The Tinkoff Saxo car with Lars Michaelsen pulls up to Rogers to give him some refreshments. It might be only 25km to go but it will be more than an hour to the finish.

25km remaining from 155km

The BMC team is now the one doing the team time trial behind Rogers. They've caught the two attackers and are now 1:40 behind Rogers. The green jersey group isn't too far behind, they're at 2:15, but that will go back out when the climb really starts to kick up.

It's quite a sight to see Rogers, in the neon yellow of TInkoff-Saxo, against a backdrop of varying shades of green, below the bright blue sky peppered with fluffy white clouds. It's no wonder that Colorado legalized marijuana.

20km remaining from 155km

As the climb kicks up, Rogers still has 1:30 on the yellow jersey group, and the green jersey group is falling farther behind, now at 4:20.

Rogers is looking more labored now, as he has the more beastly part of the mountain ahead in his sights. He's got a little stitch in his step. BMC is looking like a machine behind with Van Garderen in the blue Colorado jersey in tow.

The climb from this side is slightly less steep, and is only a category 2 despite it being at the end of the stage.

The official segment on that social media cycling site that everyone uses is 10.7 miles long at 5.1%, and Rogers is on the segment now. Fred Rodriguez holds the KOM on it, at 50:41, but we suspect he will lose that today, as he's dropped out of the race.

15km remaining from 155km

Compare this side at 5.1% average to the 5.9% average on the other, and it is ever so slightly easier. It's still no mean feat to climb 10 miles.

Some Polish Majka fans traveled from Nebraska to cheer for Rafal on Monarch Pass. #ProChallenge http://t.co/OIGNxKtPUG

@butterflywriter Wed, 20th Aug 2014 21:55:21

Rogers is losing ground on the chasing group now that the climb has gotten a little steeper. He's only 1:05 ahead of the BMC-led chase group with 13.7km remaining.

Trek is now moving up to the front with BMC, but not to help, they're just riding side by side with Van Garderen and crew.

Everyone in the chasing group is starting to get nervous. They can see the Mavic neutral support moto behind Rogers, and they are only 40 seconds behind him. The attacks could happen soon.

Jens Voigt sidles up next to Ben King in the chase group, the Trek team is keeping a close eye on the proceedings between BMC and Garmin. They might have a little something up their sleeves today.

Michael Rogers may not win the stage today, but he will get to be on the podium as he's been voted most aggressive.

An attack from Acevedo, and Jaramillo fiollows.

6km remaining from 155km

Acevedo and Jaramillo are getting a small advantage, but BMC is confident and steadily ticking away behind them.

The attack of Acevedo and Jaramillo didn't go anywhere, but it did succeed in bringing Rogers back, the leading group is now 26 riders, although a few might be going out the back. Kyer, Huzarski and a few others are swinging.

 

7km remaining from 155km

Acevedo attacks again. Still 7km to go.

We mistook the mile markers, they've got 6.3km to go now, and the leading group is all together, 23 riders, and 4:20 over the green jersey group. Acevedo leads, with Van Garderen, Jones, Zoidl behind.

Howes, Euser and Bookwalter are being distanced by this hard pace by Acevedo.

5km remaining from 155km

Carter Jones attacks, but he's quickly chased by Acevedo, now Trek comes to the front with a surge.

The yellow jersey is being distanced, now 5 seconds behind, as the riders up front call a momentary truce. Here comes Pires!

Pires doesn't get far because of the attentive riding by Garmin.

Frank Schleck is in the yellow jersey group with Euser and Bookwalter.

Danielson attacks, still 4.9km to go, Hermans is right on him with Van Garderen.

Danielson is still pushing the pace, but it's just not a hard enough climb to really break things up. 

Pires attacks again with 4km to go.

Pires doesn't get far but then goes to the other side of the road to see if they'll forget about him. They don't, Danielson, Busche, Carter Jones all go over the top. Jones attacks.

Jones doesn't get away, it's Danielson and Van Garderen right on his wheel with 3.5km to go.

Howes is still fighting, and according to race radio it's 5 seconds back to him. He could keep the jersey but Hermans was only 11 seconds behind him at the start.

A Trek rider has attacked, I think it's Matthew Busche - they just kind of let him go.

2km remaining from 155km

Busche has 2.5km to go and he's got a 10 second lead - not much of a reaction quite yet. He was 13 second down on Howes so we expect a Garmin reaction.

It's Tinkoff that's doing the chasing, however.

2km remaining from 155km

Tinkoff's Majka was 32 seconds down on the GC, and is running out of room to get that back.

2km to go and Busche only has 5 seconds.

Chevrier, the best young rider, is holding onto the chase group by the skin of his teeth.

There are only 10 riders left in this leading group, as Tinkoff and Garmin lead Van Garderen, with the BMC teammates at the back. Jones is in here, as is Tvetcov, amazingly.

Hermans is hanging onto the back. Danielson is here, Van Garderen, Majka and PIres, Tvetcov, just six riders now as they hit 1km to go.

Van Garderen goes and Majka goes after him, Danielson is left chasing.

Less that 1km to go and Majka has a great chance to win this stage. Van Garderen is only concerned with GC, or is he?

Busche didn't last long in the chase group after that attack.

In the final straight and Van Garderen leads it out.

Van Garderen gets it! Majka didn't have the gas. He gets second and moves up on GC. Here comes Tvetcov in third.

Hermans, Danielson and Howes come in behind.

Correction that was not Howes in there, he's just coming in wtih Euser, Schleck and Bookwalter with almost 2 minutes lost.

Today's top 10

1 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
2 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
3 Serghei Tvetcov (Mda) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
4 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team
5 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin Sharp
6 Carter Jones (USA) Optum Pro Cycling
7 Joey Rosskopf (USA) Hincapie Sportswear
8 Matthew Busche (USA) Trek Factory Racing
9 Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) NetApp-Endura
10 Clement Chevrier (Fra) Bissell

General classification after stage 3

1 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 10:34:53
2 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:20
3 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:23
4 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin Sharp 0:00:34
5 Serghei Tvetcov (Mda) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 0:00:36
6 Matthew Busche (USA) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:45
7 Carter Jones (USA) Optum Pro Cycling 0:00:48
8 Joey Rosskopf (USA) Hincapie Sportswear 0:00:55
9 Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) NetApp-Endura 0:01:09
10 Julian Kyer (USA) Team SmartStop 0:01:22

Thanks for reading, we'll be back in Colorado Springs tomorrow for a furious circuit race.

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