Aspen’s Tejay van Garderen extended his overall lead in the USA Pro Challenge on Saturday afternoon with a dominating victory in the rain in the Vail Individual Time Trial.
Van Garderen, bidding for his second consecutive USA Pro Challenge title, broke his own record in the iconic time trial up Vail Pass.
He had set the record a year ago en route to the 2013 USA Pro Challenge crown.
On Saturday, he rode the 10-mile uphill course that starts in Vail Village and takes the frontage road to the finish at 9,663 feet in a blazing 24 minutes, 26 seconds.
He averaged 24.6 mph on the uphill climb, smashing his 2013 record of 25:02.
Van Garderen won by a huge margin over Tommy Danielson of Garmin Sharp, who had finished in 25:19.
Danielson vaulted all the way from fourth overall to second overall with his dynamic ride Saturday.
But he’s still 1:31 behind van Garderen in the general classification standings as the cyclists head to the final stage Sunday on the Front Range.
Serghei Tvetcov, a Romanian riding for Jelly Belly, is in third place overall.
He’s 1:45 back in the general classification, the highest-ranked rider from the smaller teams in the field. Tvetcov also finished third in Saturday’s Vail Time Trial.
Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo, the rider from Poland who won two stages in the Tour de France this year, fell to fourth place overall. He had been second to van Garderen entering Saturday’s stage.
“I was assisted by a bit of a tailwind coming up,” van Garderen said in an interview on the NBC Sports Network at the finish area.
He said experience played a critical role in his record-setting time Saturday.
“I’ve done this race three times,” van Garderen said, recounting the frustration of a loss in 2011 to Levi Leipheimer, who went on to win the inaugural USA Pro Challenge overall title.
Last year, van Garderen said, he won the race but lost most of his time advantage in the final 2 miles.
“This year, I was perfectly smooth the whole way,” said van Garderen, who took the 2014 USA Pro Challenge lead when he won the mountain stage that finished at Monarch Mountain.
“This (year) is incredible,” van Gardren said in the television interview. “My team is riding amazing.”
Among those to offer congratulations in the finish area on Vail Pass was Danielson, the Boulder rider for Garmin Sharp, and Tejay’s wife, the former Jessica Phillips. She’s a former pro bike racer and an Aspen High School graduate.
Aspen first-year pro rider Keegan Swirbul, riding for the Bissell Development Team, finished 95th in Saturday’s time trial, 5:50 back of the winner.
Swirbul, a recent Aspen High School graduate, is 67th overall, 54:42 back. He’s riding in his first USA Pro Challenge.
He competed in the Tour of Utah earlier this summer.
Van Garderen and the USA Pro Challenge peloton will head to Boulder to start the final stage Sunday.
The seventh and final stage in the 550-mile, seven-stage race, will take the cyclists 78 miles.
They will leave Boulder and head south to Golden.
They’ll climb Lookout Mountain Road, go back through Golden and then on to Denver for finishing laps downtown.
Start time Sunday is 12:30 p.m.
The stage is expected to produce a bunch sprint finish although the 4-mile Lookout Mountain climb could stagger the standings somewhat.
The stage also will mark the final professional bicycle race for Jens Voigt, the popular German rider for Trek Factory Racing.
Voigt, who started his career in 1997, won 83 races in his career, including a stage of the USA Pro Challenge that finished at Beaver Creek two years ago.
Television coverage of Sunday’s final stage will begin at noon (Aspen time) on NBC Sports Network television.
It will move to NBC network coverage at 2 p.m. Sunday.