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USA Pro Challenge 2015: Stage 7

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Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the USA Pro Challenge final stage from Golden to Denver.

Welcome back to the final installment of the live coverage of the USA Pro Challenge. We have to admit that we're a bit distracted by the fact that Italian champion Vincenzo Nibali and his Astana DS Alexander Shefer have been ejected from the Vuelta a España.

The video of the event was pretty egregious - Nibali is at the front of a chasing group about 37 seconds down with 16km to go when the Astana car pulls alongside, and just tows him up the road.

Plenty of riders take 'sticky bottles' when they crash or have a mechanical issue and are left behind by the entire race, but to be chasing back to the front? That's just ridiculous and is incredible unsportsmanlike - even if nobody in that chase group was helping, there is no excuse for that behavior.

We hope it doesn't distract from a fine victory by Orica's Esteban Chaves, who could well be Colombia's Next Big Thing after Nairo Quintana.

Back in Colorado the riders are being called to the line in Golden for their very fast, very furious stage to Denver. It's only 109.7km long, and with only one climb - Lookout Mountain at km. 24.2, it's going to be an intense start.

There is very little chance anyone will knock Rohan Dennis off the top of the podium - the BMC rider has been far too strong. But there are a few riders fighting for third place, currently held by SmartStop's Rob Britton.

Here's a look at the GC before stage 7

1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 21:33:33
2 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:44
3 Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop 0:01:31
4 Gavin Mannion (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 0:01:49
5 Lachlan David Morton (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 0:01:53
6 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Axeon Cycling Team 0:01:58
7 Lachlan Norris (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:02:02
8 Toms Skujins (Lat) Hincapie Racing Team 0:02:08
9 Hugh Carthy (GBr) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:02:13
10 Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek Factory Racing 0:02:14

There's only one intermediate sprint, with 5 points to the winner, and on the finish line there are 15 for the stage winner. There's still a chance for Dennis to unseat Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare).

Points classification

1 Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 39 pts
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 27
3 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 25
4 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 19
5 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team 15
6 Logan Owen (USA) Axeon Cycling Team 13
7 Ryan Anderson (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 12
8 Javier Megias Leal (Spa) Team Novo Nordisk 12
9 Gavin Mannion (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 11
10 Nathan Brown (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 10

Riders are underway for their neutral 1.8km trip out of Golden.

Drapac's Lachlan Norris is 7th overall at 2:02, and is ready for a vicious start to the stage.

"It's a hard start like every single stage this week. It's just been brutal starts we will see how it is on Lookout, I've ridden up there a few times and I think it's pretty tough. There will be some sore legs so there are any opportunities we'll go for it," he told Cyclingnews this morning.

Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural) held the best young rider's jersey until the time trial, and is thinking about trying to get it back.

"It's all or nothing now I suppose. 100 kilometers, it's a short race, it's gonna be hard we'll see what happens. There is only 15 seconds so I need a little bit of luck, but you never know," he said.

There is an enormous crowd in Golden, as usual, and the roar of the crowd certainly helped to amp the women up this morning when they raced their criterium.

Coryn Rivera won the stage, Kristin Armstrong the overall. We have full results and will have report and photos soon.

Attacks are flying as the riders get their official start. Budget Forklifts, Smartstop, Novo Nordisk are all up front.

Seems Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) didn't get enough of making the Pro Conti riders cry yesterday and is on the attack.

Nothing is sticking quite yet, the pace is very quick on the front and attacks are going repeatedly.

BMC is keeping the race together. There are 8 points to the winner of the sprint on Lookout Mountain - so Dennis' mountains jersey is under potential threat.

Kyle Murphy will have to win and Dennis and Bookwalter get nothing to overtake Dennis.

1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 35 pts
2 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 31
3 Kyle Murphy (USA) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 28
4 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 22
5 Laurent Didier (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 21
6 Robbie Squire (USA) Hincapie Racing Team 19
7 Nathan Brown (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 19
8 Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 18
9 Daniel Summerhill (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 18
10 Lachlan David Morton (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 15

A Hincapie rider attacks.

100km remaining from 110km

10km into the race and a group of five riders has a slight gap.

Ruben Zepunkte (Cannondale): "It's stood stage for me. I can hopefully survive the first climb up Lookout Mountain and then we will see if I can do a good sprint but the team is motivated for the last stage. Maybe we can do the same job as last year."
 

Chris Anker Sörensen (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jaime Roson (Caja Rural), Samuel Spokes (Drapac Professional), Joseph Schmalz (Hincapie), Alexandr Braico (Jelly Belly), and Gregory Daniel (Axeon) have made their escape, and have 40 seconds. Emanuel Piaskowy (Cycling Academy) is trying to get across.

The riders are passing through Golden for their second lap and the road sides are simply heaving with fans.

95km remaining from 110km

Roson is the biggest threat in the move, at 2:33 he's not likely to challenge Dennis, but he will make Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon) nervous for that best young rider's jersey. He's just 35 seconds down.

92km remaining from 110km

The field is heading up Lookout Mountain - it's a nasty little 6.9km kicker that is steepest toward the middle.

Gap to the leaders is one minute on the nose.

There's a chasing group behind, looks like Cannondale is trying to light it up, and Hincapie, Smartstop and Trek are on the train.

Seems Zepunkte is true to his word, and is in the chase group with teammate Janier Acevedo. Also there is Laurent Didier (Trek), Robbie Squire (Hincapie) and Travis McCabe (SmartStop).

They're at 55 seconds from the leaders, the field 10 more seconds behind.

There are massive crowds on Lookout Mountain, Joe Schmalz has lost contact with the lead group. The chase is making ground up on the leaders but aren't there yet.

Cyclingnews' Ted Burns caught Didier at the start:

"It's going to be intense and I think the climb is going to make the peloton split again like the years before when I raced here.

"In the end it is still going to be a sprint. We have Silvestre here but he's suffered always before in the climb and the last stages were hard for him so we prefer to go in the break again like we tried yesterday."

The chase group has caught Schmalz and are still closing in on the leaders, 30 seconds to the front while the peloton is at 1:10 from the lead five.

Robbie Squire is on the attack from the chasing group and going solo across to the leaders - just 20".

89km remaining from 110km

The leaders are halfway up the climb and Zepunkte is being dropped from the chase group.

Zepunkte isn't the only one being jettisoned from the chase. The climb is really starting to bite now, and the chase is disintegrating.

It's difficult to get a bead on all of the groups, but the chase seems to be down to just Squire and Acevedo. McCabe was with them for a time but couldn't hang.

86km remaining from 110km

1km to go for the leaders to the top.

It flattens out toward the top, but then kicks back up again before the line.

The KOM went to Spokes - great name for a bike racer, btw.

Mountain 1 (Cat. 3) Lookout Mountain, km. 24.2

1. Samuel Spokes (Drapac Professional)
2. Jaime Roson (Caja Rural)
3. Chris Anker Sörensen (Tinkoff-Saxo)
4. Gregory Daniel (Axeon)
5. Alexandr Braico (Jelly Belly)

Those are our leaders together with Acevedo and Squire, who made it across.

The field split into two on the climb but is coming back togehter.

Actually Squire doesn't seem to have made the trip across, only Acevedo, so we have a break of six now: Chris Anker Sörensen (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jaime Roson (Caja Rural), Samuel Spokes (Drapac Professional), Alexandr Braico (Jelly Belly), Gregory Daniel (Axeon), and Janier Acevedo (Cannondale-Garmin).

They have 45 seconds on the yellow jersey.

 

75km remaining from 110km

75km left in the stage, and the leaders are streaming off Lookout Mountain. It's a wide-open, straight descent and very quick.

They'll get to the finish line in Denver with 41.2km to go and then do four laps of the city circuit.

BMC is keeping the breakaway at arm's length, 1:20 now for the leaders.

The six leaders take the left turn onto Heritage road, zoom around the roundabout and then head out away from highway 40 and back toward Golden.

They'll head east down 32nd Ave toward Edgemont, and not back into Golden this time.

66km remaining from 110km

Whoops that was a different turn, they've only got 66km to go and are 2km away from the Denver sprint.

Oh we are so confused. They really are 66km into the stage not 66km to go, so they are heading east from Golden, cheered along by a big group of fans on the corner of Washington Ave.

1:45 for the leaders.

UnitedHealthcare is helping to keep the gap at a reasonable spot, we spoke to Johnny Clarke this morning, who said they'll be working for the sprint.

"I think we've got one thing on our mind that's John Murphy. But then again we have Kiel Reijnen. Kiel won't be a problem, he'll be able to stay at the front and well nurse Murph back and we'll go into crit mode."

They won the women's stage today with Coryn Rivera. Can they double?

59km remaining from 110km

The leaders head around a roundabout, and Spokes just hops over it while the others ride around.

Braico is in the dark blue of best Colorado rider, while Sorsensen wears the Danish champion's jersey.

Jelly Belly has a nice Lexus provided by the race up to feed Braico. Wonder what happened to their regular team car?

Janez Brajkovic (UnitedHealthcare) sure is getting his time trial training in this week. He's chasing flat out, while the Jamis riders enjoy what little draft they can get off of him.

Brajjkovic stops his interval, having taken back 15 seconds on the leaders (1:25 now) and David Williams (Jamis) takes over the pacemaking. He's about twice as big as Brajkovic.

The leaders have to climb up slightly at the midpoint of today's stage, they're leaving Crown Hil park behind them.

Brajkovic put in interval number two and clawed 5 more seconds back on the leaders, then pulled off to let Jamis take over again. So far BMC is having nothing to do with the front of the race.

Good morning to our early riders in Australia - congratulations to your Orica-GreenEdge team on Esteban Chaves' stage win in the Vuelta! He's leading just about every classification, too.

The leaders are single file, with Spokes pushing the pace, and Daniel struggling a bit. The gap is steadily falling, now 1:16 to 1:20, depending on who's pulling.

Johnny Clarke takes a turn so fast he gaps everyone off, but the peloton is strung out single file now that UHC has decided to put on the afterburners. The six up front are rotating, but Daniel is just sitting on.

We suppose Daniel can sit on because Roson threatens the best young rider lead of Geoghegan Hart.

45km remaining from 110km

The leaders can see the Denver skyline dead ahead. It's straight into town from here, then four circuits of 10.3km.

Oh dear, Acevedo has a problem with his chain and is out of the breakaway.

The now-five leaders are starting to get frisky - Greg Daniel attacks!

Daniel's move has left Braico and Spokes behind, but Roson and Sorensen bridged to him.

41km remaining from 110km

They're in Denver and have passed the sprint point - Sorensen appeared to get the points, while Axeon brings the peloton across.

The five leaders are back together, 45 seconds ahead.

Braico, Roson and Spokes are struggling now as Daniel attacks again and Sorensen goes with him.

It's job well done for Greg Daniel, he's managed to jettison the rider who threatened Geoghegan Hart's best young rider jersey.

Sorensen and Daniel are working well together now, holding 40 seconds on the peloton with UHC at the head.

The leaders are heading through City Park - a lovely resource for the urban dwellers of Denver. It's a relief of green in the midst of concrete and steel.

We have to give a shout out to the USA Pro Challenge organisers who have used flat-footed barriers to keep the crowds back. The ones with the raised feet have been the cause of numerous crashes when riders get too close and clip a foot or pedal.

Notably, the feet caused Zdenek Stybar to crash violently in the Eneco Tour last year. He smashed his teeth and scarred his handsome face. 

Sorensen has to be under a bit of pressure to perform - he's on the outs with Tinkoff-Saxo and looking for a contract. Rumours linked him to Bora-Argon 18.

Clarke has the peloton going in maintenance mode, keeping a 35 second gap and not wanting to push it quite yet.

We see Ted King out on the left side - this is his last big race before he retires. Check back to Cyclingnews for an interview later.

35km remaining from 110km

Reijnen has his team working hard for the sprint today - if the race explodes like it did last year, he's a good bet. He'll want revenge for coming second to Alex Howes last year. But John Murphy has been sprinting quite well, too, if it sticks together.

31km remaining from 110km

The two leaders have 500m to go to the end of this lap, no sprint points on the line this time around.

The chasing trio are visible in the turn behind, not making up ground nor losing it.

It's such a strange thing to see the head of the peloton riding so hard, and Rohan Dennis just coasting in the bunch behind, but such is physics.

Up ahead, Daniel is up and out of the saddle, giving it everything. 25" to the peloton.

Jamis is working for Seba Haedo - he's been sprinting well this year after returning to the USA from his WorldTour days and last year with Skydive Dubai. He's won stages of Tour of the Gila and Joe Martin, but against the big names he's come up short. Could today be his day? Jamis thinks so.

25km remaining from 110km

The three chasers have been caught and now our two leaders are alone with 35 seconds on the peloton.

Greg Daniel has been seriously punching above his weight class this year- he's done Tour of California, Tour of Utah, where he won the mountains classification, and is now riding aggressively in Colorado.

25 seconds ot the peloton as Hincapie kicks off a group attack.

24km remaining from 110km

It's actually a Cycling Academy rider sandwiched in between two Hincapies off the front of the peloton with a slight advantage.

22km remaining from 110km

The two leaders are heading into the end of the lap, they'll see two to go when they cross the line.

Behind them, the chasers Flaksis, Clark and Turek have expanded their gap.

21km remaining from 110km

The duo up front are still holding onto their lead but the three chasers are losing group, thanks in part to a TV moto that got in the gap.

20km remaining from 110km

Through the finish line, the chase is caught and the peloton can see the two leaders ahead.

The peloton is a long, thin line snaking through the streets of Denver, someone in yellow is back in the team cars, but we doubt it's Rohan Dennis, otherwise all of BMC would be back with him.

It was a Budget Forklifts rider, Brodie Talbot has tacked onto the back of the peloton.

Just 10 seconds from the duo to the peloton, and we doubt they'll last too much longer. Jamis are still working for Haedo.

The peloton has stopped really trying to catch the leaders. This is going to be a big bunch sprint. 

Sorensen and Daniel blast around the turn then head up into City Park. 17th Ave is divided by cones, the peloton heads up and back into the finish on the same road, with the City Park loop in between.

Breakaway time is over, the two leaders look behind and see the bunch.

13km remaining from 110km

The breakaway is done and now it's just the matter of controlling the attacks before the sprint - something UnitedHealthcare is very good at.

Cannondale sends a rider to the front to set pace.

Unitedhealthcare comes to the front and keeps the peloton single file. Under the 1km to go for the start of the final lap!

10km remaining from 110km

Jamis has control as they had under the finish banner for one lap to go!

The following cars are heading in the opposite direction of the riders as they speed out toward City Park. The pace has dropped markedly.

Trek attacks.

Calvin Watson was the rider who attacked with 8.5km to go but he's been caught quite readily.

This sprint will be more like a criterium than the sprint in the opening stage in Steamboat Springs, where Taylor Phinney won. It's pancake flat and has a very fast turn with 300m to go.

BMC, however, have come to the front with 6.7km to go, keeping Dennis out of trouble? Or setting him or Phinney up to attack?

Will they do a little 'Saturn release' and just get a rider to open a gap before the sprint, letting one rider jump away? 

5km remaining from 110km

Just 5km left to go in the USA Pro Challenge. They'll leave the green oasis of City Park and blast back down 17th.

UnitedHealthcare is tucked in behind, with one Axeon rider, likely Logan Owen in between.

Taylor Phinney is at the back of the BMC train, Dennis in the middle. Cannondale moving up wtih Optum on the left.

Nobdoy in control yet, and a Cycling Academy rider attacks!

3km remaining from 110km

Drapac is trying to move up, but the Cycling Academy rider has been caught by BMC. They take back over.

There is all sorts of barging going on, a Hincapie rider is bumped out across the cones.

 

3km remaining from 110km

A surge fome Canondale but they can't get past UHC.

Inside the safety zone, will Dennis pull off? Nope.

Drapac dives the inside of the left turn, and a UHC rider turns so hard he opens a gap to Dennis.

No sign of Kiel Reijnen or Murphy yet. There goes Rohan Dennis - to the front, they did the saturn release!

He's opening up a gap on UHC.

1km remaining from 110km

Just under 2km to go and UHC has a job to do.

He keeps looking back, however. Brajkovic comes to the front and closes it down. 1km to go!

What a great piece of riding. Phinney's lurking, however.

Murphy's on the front and it's far too early. They open a gap on the field, but Phinney's in there.

Fast turn, Phinney goes out of the turn!

Phinney went too early and Murphy gets it!

The lead-out came from Marco Canola, not Brajkovic, and it was perfectly done. Phinney was forced out too early and faded, while Murphy powered across by a wheel to win. It's his biggest victory in the USA of his career.

Reijnen got in the mix to keep green.

The mountains jersey stays with Rohan Dennis. It was quite a haul this week for the BMC team. First and second overall with Bookwalter and Dennis, stage wins, team overall... and great form for Worlds?

1 John Murphy (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
2 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
3 Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team SmartStop
4 Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Jamis - Hagens Berman
5 Fabio Silvestre (Por) Trek Factory Racing

Here's the final stage and GC:

1 John Murphy (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 02:20:03
2 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team 00:00:00
3 Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Jamis - Hagens Berman 00:00:00
4 Travis Mccabe (USA) Team SmartStop 00:00:00
5 Fabio Silvestre (Por) Trek Factory Racing 00:00:00
6 Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 00:00:00
7 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 00:00:00
8 Dion Smith (NZl) Hincapie Racing Team 00:00:00
9 Jordan Kerby (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 00:00:00
10 Adam Phelan (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 00:00:00

Final general classification
1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 23:53:44
2 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 00:00:44
3 Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop 00:01:31
4 Gavin Mannion (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 00:01:49
5 Lachlan David Morton (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 00:01:53
6 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Axeon Cycling Team 00:01:58
7 Lachlan Norris (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 00:02:02
8 Toms Skujins (Lat) Hincapie Racing Team 00:02:08
9 Hugh Carthy (GBr) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 00:02:13
10 Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek Factory Racing 00:02:14

Thanks for following the USA Pro Challenge with us here at Cyclingnews. We really do appreciate every click we get. 

Please take a moment to thank the organisers of this race and encourage the moneybags of the world to sponsor it for the future.

For the next three weeks, we'll be doing live coverage daily from the Vuelta a España, so please come back then!

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