STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The cycling superstar, who won the opening stage of the USA Pro Challenge in Aspen, didn’t wait long to get his second stage win in Colorado.
Peter Sagan, the Slovakian national champion who came to Aspen two weeks early for altitude training in advance of the USA Pro Challenge, won Wednesday’s third stage with another sprint to the line in downtown Steamboat Springs.
The 23-year-old Sagan, riding for the Italian-based Cannondale team, won the final field sprint after the closing peloton erased a long, heroic breakaway by Jens Voigt, the German riding for RadioShack and the oldest cyclist in the field at age 41.
Australia’s Lachlan Morton, the 21-year-old who now lives in Boulder and rides for Garmin-Sharp, retained the yellow jersey as the overall leader of the seven-stage race across Colrado.
Sagan, who won the Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race on Monday to kick off the USA Pro Challenge, crossed the line at the end of the 106-mile stage in 4 hours, 4 minutes, 18 seconds.
“The team was very good, and I felt good (Wednesday),” said Sagan, who was 17 wins this season. “I felt sorry for Jens (Voigt), but when the team went to the front, there was only one way he could win, and we caught him with three kilometers to go.”
Morton finished in the main field in the same time as the winner to retain a 2-second lead over Mathias Frank, the BMC rider from Switzerland.
Sagan, a four-time Tour de France stage winner, remained third overall — 11 seconds back.
Slovakia’s Luka Mezgec, of Argos-Shimano, was second in the stage, followed by Canada’s Ryan Anderson, of Optum-Kelly Benefit.
New Aspen resident Tejay van Garderen finished up front. He protected his position in fourth place overall. He’s just 11 seconds back, the same as Sagan.
Van Garderen, who rides for BMC, finished third overall in the 2011 inaugural USA Pro Challenge. He finished second overall last year.
Lawson Craddock, the 21-year-old riding for Bontrager, is fifth overall, 18 seconds back.
Tommy Danielson, of Boulder, sits in sixth, 29 seconds back. He recently won the Tour of Utah. Danielson also won the USA Pro Stage that finished in Aspen last year.
“I was a new experience for me,” said Danielson’s teammate, Morton. A first-year pro, Morton won his first pro race earlier this month in the Tour of Utah. “It was a lot of fun.”
The third stage included at least three crashes. Three riders went down in the final two miles.
The 41-year-old Voigt escaped from a lead group of five with about 40 miles left in the stage and built nearly a 2½-minute lead. But Voigt, a two-time Tour de France stage winner, was caught by the field within the final two miles.
“I had it in mind (Wednesday) morning. I told the boys, ‘I feel up to it,’” he said. “I’m not going to win the (general classification). There was no reason for me to hold back. Sometimes, it’s best if no one expects you to go, then you go.”
The weeklong race continues today with the 102.9-mile leg from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek.
The stage will feature five climbs, including one slightly longer than a mile to the finish to Beaver Creek Village. The final climb up Bachelor Gulch will be one of the steepest grades of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge.
The challenge will end Sunday with the Denver Circuit Race.