Day 1: Survival.
Mission accomplished for Aspen native Alex Hagman, who endured the opening stage of the USA Pro Challenge on Monday with a solid, in-the-peloton finish.
“It was harder than I expected,” Hagman said after completing the 60-mile Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race. The Jelly Belly team rider, a graduate of Aspen High School, finished officially in 55th position, just one spot behind cycling legend Jens Voigt, the popular German who rides for RadioShack. They were 16 seconds back.
Hagman said the intensity of the pace and the quick-burst climbs took a toll on the field, even though the race spanned only 21/2 hours.
“It got hectic at the end,” Hagman said of the third-lap chase when the peloton reeled in the three-rider breakaway near the finish in Aspen.
“We had a plan (with sprinter Freddy Rodriguez),” Hagman said. “We stuck to the plan, but sometimes the plan doesn’t work out.”
Still, Hagman said, the Jelly Belly team had a great day on the roads with teammate Ian Burnett in the three-rider break for much of the race.
“Ian crushed it totally,” Hagman said of the Jelly Belly rider from Durango. “He proved himself out there.”
Burnett rode in a breakaway with Matt Cooke, of Jamis, and Craig Lewis, of Champion System, two other U.S. riders. They broke from the group just 6 miles into the race.
But the power teams, led by Cannondale, BMC and RadioShack, collected the breakaway in Aspen’s West End on the final lap, setting the stage for Peter Sagan’s emphatic sprint victory for Cannondale.
“It was nice to be out there racing here,” Hagman said. “I had friends all over. My parents were in the VIP tent screaming their lungs out.
“There were people who watched me grow up out there watching,” Hagman said. “The Aspen Cycling Club, they were out there. They set the first platform for me.”
Hagman, after racing as a teenager in the local cycling club, went to Fort Lewis College in Durango where he won a national collegiate mountain bike championship. Burnett also rode for Fort Lewis.
Hagman said the circuit course was a good challenge for the teams to open the 2013 USA Pro Challenge.
“The course rode pretty well. It was great with the whole road wide open,” Hagman said, adding he saw only one close call Monday.
“Someone ... almost hit a spectator, but got around,” Hagman said. “But that’s just bike racing. It happens.”
But, he said, no dogs, no cats, no wildlife, aside from some of the spectators.
“I felt pretty good, not great,” Hagman said. “I think as the race goes on, I’ll start feeling a little better and better.”
The USA Pro Challenge will take off with Stage 2 today: 10:10 a.m. start in downtown Aspen. A pair of warmup laps downtown, and then it’s off for a breakfast climb over Independence Pass.
The stage will cover 126 miles, including Trout Pass and Hoosier Pass, with a finish in downtown Breckenridge.