BRECKENRIDGE — A young Australian, who’s trained in Colorado for years, rode into the yellow jersey Tuesday on Stage 2 of the USA Pro Challenge.
BMC rider Mathias Frank, of Switzerland, won the stage that started in Aspen and finished in downtown Breckenridge. But the 21-year-old Lachlan Morton, who now lives in Boulder, finished within 3 seconds of Frank, giving Morton the yellow jersey for his Boulder-based Garmin-Sharp tam.
Frank, 26, who claimed his third stage win this season, completed the 126.1-mile ride over Independence Pass, Hoosier Pass and Boreas Pass in 5 hours, 5 minutes and 19 seconds.
Morton, who started coming to Colorado with his family to ride bikes as a young teenager, began the stage in 16th place in the same time as opening stage winner and former race leader Peter Sagan, of Slovakia.
“I went for it, but I couldn’t keep up with Mathias at the end,” said Morton. “The yellow (leader’s) jersey is a nice consolation.”
Riding in his first full professional season, Morton won his first pro race earlier this month at the Tour of Utah.
Morton’s first major Colorado win as an amateur came two years ago at age 19 when he won the climbing race in the San Juans, the Iron Horse Bicyle Classic from Durango to Silverton.
Frank, who placed 33rd in the opening stage, trails Morton by two seconds.
With his victory secure, Frank, a double stage winner last month in the Tour of Austria, eased up at the line and raised his arms to celebrate — and the loss of speed may have cost him the race lead.
“For me, the stage win was the most important thing,” said Frank. “That’s what I got, so I’m really happy.”
He also said the pressure of protecting the yellow jersey will rest with Garmin-Sharp.
Sagan (Cannondale), a four-time Tour de France stage winner who finished third in the stage, is also third overall, trailing by 11 seconds. Sagan, who spent two weeks in Aspen for altitude training, won Monday’s Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race.
Morton, Frank and American Lawson Craddock (Bontrager) were out in front over the final 12 miles after the trio escaped from a 15-rider pack. The leaders built a 4-minute cushion with about 30 miles left in the stage. Craddock is from Austin, Texas.
Morton attacked the trio of leaders briefly, but Frank surged to the front and maintained his brief advantage to the finish.
“I was surprised,” said Frank. “(Monday), I had a hard day with the altitude. But (Tuesday), I was good. It was the stage win first, not the race lead.”
Crashes and illness took several riders out of the race, leaving 121 cyclists from an opening field of 128.
Defending race winner Christian Van de Velde, a teammate of Morton’s, finished 19th and is 20th overall, trailing by 46 seconds.
Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) finished 76th and is also 76th overall — over 16 minutes back. He’s riding in a support role for young American teammate Joe Dombrowski.
The seven-day event continues today with the 106.1-mile ride from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs.
The stage features two climbs, including Rabbit Ears Pass — with an elevation of 9,426 feet — about 20 miles from the finish.
The day will finish with a steep downhill finish into downtown Steamboat Springs.
The event’s third edition concludes Sunday with a 72.4-mile Denver Circuit Race.
New Aspen resident Tejay van Garderen, of BMC, finished fourth in Tuesday’s stage.
Van Garderen is fourth overall, as well.