Top teams and cyclists, coming to a town near you | AspenTimes.com

Top teams and cyclists, coming to a town near you

Amanda Charles
Special to the Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Levi Leiphiemer of Team Radioshack, rides to a second place finish during the final stage in the Tour of Utah cycling race at Snowbird, Utah, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve C. Wilson)

ASPEN – Although the Tour de France sets the unquestioned gold standard for competitive cycling and cyclists, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge offers a compelling mix of world-class racing and racers in its own right. Here’s a sneak peak at some top teams and contenders who will be charging down Aspen’s streets Wednesday afternoon.

Finishing as a top-10 team in the International Cycling Union (UCI) ranking in 2010, BMC Racing Team earned UCI’s ProTeam status for 2011, which entitles it to entry in the world’s top races. Managed by Director Sportif John Lelangue, the team is competing in its fifth season and will bring fierce riders to the lineup including former world road race champions Cadel Evans (Australia) and Alessandro Ballan (Italy), and U.S. national road champion George Hincapie. While the BMC team’s professional status is young, its skills run deep, producing leads in both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia in its first participation in both events. Joining the roster this year is Colorado native and multi-time world and U.S. national champion Taylor Phinney, who contributes to a formidable combination when paired with Evans’ tenacious climbing skills.

Winner of the 2011 Tour de France’s Team Time Trial and owner of the yellow jersey for more than a week, Team Garmin-Cervelo is headquartered in Boulder, and managed by CEO and Director Sportif Jonathan Vaughters. This year’s pack features Ryder Hesjedal, who earned seventh place overall at the 2010 Tour de France; sprint sensation Tyler Farrar; world champion Thor Hushovd; and Christian Vande Velde. Rounding out the team is Boulder’s Tom Danielson, a two-time stage winner at the Tour of Spain and the ninth finisher in this year’s Tour de France. Danielson knows the local roads and is no stranger to altitude, giving him a measure of home-course advantage for the race.

Members of the Bob Stapleton-led HTC-Highroad team have combined for 389 victories since 2008, the most in professional cycling, plus nine national titles and six world championships. With 19 riders under the age of 26, HTC-Highroad is one of the youngest teams in professional cycling and represents national champions of Germany, the United States, Sweden, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy and Slovakia. This team is capable of breakaway speed and features one of the world’s fastest sprinters, Mark Cavendish, with 24 victories in 2009 including six stage wins at the Tour de France, and the equally powerful Mark Renshaw, who helped secure many of the team’s wins.

Leopard Trek is a new team led by the brothers Andy Schleck and Fränk Schleck of Luxembourg, with Brian Nygaard as team manager. Eleven nations are represented on the roster, including Olympic Gold Medalist Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland), 2010 Mountains Classification Tour Down Under winner Thomas Rohregger (Austria), and veteran Stuart O’Grady (Australia). The climbing power of Frank Schleck, who has twice finished in the top five of the Tour de France, and brother Andy, one step shy of winning the Tour twice, will be enough to bring unmatched competition to the UPCC.

Team RadioShack is led by Sports Team Manager Johan Bruyneel, the most winning sports director in history with nine Tour de France victories, including seven with pro-cycling legend Lance Armstrong. Team member Robbie McEwen, widely recognized as one of the fastest sprinters of the past decade, with more than 200 professional victories under his belt including three wins of the Tour de France’s green jersey sprinter’s classification and twelve stage wins, will surely take time off the clock in the UPCC.

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For a complete list of teams and rosters, visit http://www.usaprocyclingchallenge.com

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