Aspen native Alex Hagman powers through USA Pro Challenge
The Aspen Times
The route for the 2013 USA Pro Challenge was more like a personal parade for Alex Hagman.
A native of Aspen and graduate of Aspen High School, Hagman started the 2013 Colorado stage race in his hometown, riding on his home roads.
Hagman, after riding across the state, competed on the roads of his current hometown when the 2013 race traveled to northern Colorado — Fort Collins specifically. That’s where the Jelly Belly professional road racer lives and trains these days.
Hagman, 29, wrapped up the very personal USA Pro Challenge on Sunday in downtown Denver.
“All over the state, the crowds were calling your name … go Alex, go Alex,” Hagman said in a telephone interview from the postrace party in Denver. “Everywhere.”
But, he said, it Fort Collins it was different.
“Fort Collins … it was awesome. They called me by my nickname up there …. go Shaggy, go Shaggy,” Hagman said of his nickname from an earlier day.
Hagman formerly sported blond dreadlocks, a hit when he was a national collegiate mountain bike champion at Fort Lewis College in Durango.
The dreads are gone, but the memories remain.
“The whole day (Stage 6) was awesome. Loveland, Windsor, Estes Park, Fort Collins … we had the most crowds of the tour that day in Fort Collins,” Hagman said.
He said he knew the USA Pro Challenge stage in Fort Collins would be memorable because of the cycling mentality of the host community.
“Cycling … all kinds of cycling, is iconic there,” Hagman said. “You can ride downtown and have trouble finding a place to park your bike.”
Hagman, who also completed the 2011 USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, finished in 39th position overall, 20:18 behind winner Tejay van Garderen, a new resident of Aspen.
Hagman was just behind Peter Sagan, the Slovakian superstar who won four of the seven stages in the 2013 USA Pro Challenge, including the final sprint in Denver on Sunday.
“Overall, definitely I was pleased with our team,” Hagman said. “I was riding more with the team agenda on my mind. As a whole, we achieved most of our goals.”
Hagman worked tirelessly to help position teammate Freddy Rodriguez, the reigning U.S. road racing champion, for a sprint finish.
“One of our goals was to put on a good show,” Hagman said of the domestic Jelly Belly team, the longest tenured cycling team in the United States (14 years).
“People definitely saw us on TV,” Hagman said with a tribute to teammate Ian Burnett, who played a prominent role in a breakaway early in the week. Burnett’s turn at the front brought the television focus to the popular Jelly Belly team, known for handing out samples to youngsters and fans at cycling events.
Jelly Belly’s ride in the breakaway also opened the door for an NBC Sports feature on the U.S. based team.
“The only reason we got on the air (with the team feature) was because of the breakaway,” said Hagman, who was featured in the on-camera interviews along with teammate Rodriguez.
“It was really fun to to it. We went to Lookout Mountain to film it,” he said of the Jelly Belly feature that aired on the NBC network as well as the NBC Sports Network.
Hagman was more than happy to showcase his Jelly Belly squad.
The 2013 USA Pro Challenge likely was Hagman’s last team competition of the cycling season.
And he’s looking ahead to 2014 and more races on hometown roads.
Now 40 years old, the downhill racer from Utah is still speeding along with no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Sure, his back sometimes aches but it’s not enough to deter him from chasing after the feeling of a perfect race.