Aspen’s Tejay van Garderen holds lead in Garden of the Gods |

Aspen’s Tejay van Garderen holds lead in Garden of the Gods

Staff report
The cyclists in the USA Pro Challenge cruise down Aspen's Main Street on Tuesday at the start of the second stage. After racing in the Colorado Springs Circuit Race on Thursday, the riders will ride 104 miles from Woodland Park to Breckenrdige today.
Aubree Dallas/The Aspen Times |

Aspen’s Tejay Van Garderen and his powerful BMC team protected the yellow jersey Thursday as the USA Pro Challenge ventured into the Garden of the Gods.

Van Garderen finished safely in the lead group for Thursday’s Colorado Springs Circuit Race, a 70-mile route with a loop that went through the Garden of the Gods park three different times.

The spen cyclist, the defending champion in the USA Pro Challenge, remains in first place overall, 20 seconds ahead of Rafal Majka of the Tinkoff-Saxo team and a winner of two stages in the recent Tour de France.

Ben Hermans, van Garderen’s BMC teammate from Belgium, remains in third place, 23 seconds behind.

Tommy Danielson of Garmin Sharp, considered the primary challenger to van Garderen to the overall title, is in fourth place overall, 24 seconds back. He finished safely in the lead group — one that caught a daring, solo breakaway by veteran Jens Voigt with just 800 meters to go.

Voigt, the popular 42-year-old German rider for Trek Factory Racing, attacked from a breakaway group of a dozen riders with 25 miles go.

Cheered wildly by the roadside crowds in Colorado Springs, headquarters for USA Cycling, Voigt maintained his solo lead until the final kilometer.

A rocketing peloton, which had absorbed the remnants of the breakaway group, surged past Voigt with less than a half-mile to go to the finish line in downtown Colorado Springs.

That enabled the teams to position sprinters for a stage win in the 2014 tour across Colorado.

Elia Viviana, the Italian sprinter with Cannondale, obliged with a dramatic surge to pull away for the victory.

Martin Kohler, a Swiss rider for BMC, was second.

Serghei Tvetcov, a Romanian riding for Jelly Belly, finished third, giving the international cyclists a podium sweep of the fourth stage of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge.

Kiel Riejnen of UnitedHealthcare, who won the opening Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race on Monday in a dramatic sprint finish, came across in fifth place Thursday.

Alex Howes of Garmin Sharp, the rider who edged Reijnen for the win in downtown Aspen, finished seventh in Thursday’s stage.

In a television interview with NBC Sports Network after the stage, van Garderen said the stage went smoothly for the BMC team.

“It seemed like everything went right,” he said, even though the team had gone over every possible “what could go wrong” scenario in their morning meeting.

“I could sit in and ride. It went perfect today,” van Garderen said.

He said that he was pulling for Voigt on his long solo breakaway in Voigt’s last professional bike race.

“I was pulling for him, but the sprinters don’t have many chances in this race,” van Garderen said. “They were pretty keen on bringing him back.”

Garmin Sharp and Cannondale led the peloton charge to track down the breakaway group and eventually Voigt.

Cannondale’s push set the stage for Viviani’s victory, his third win a USA Pro Challenge stage. He also won the finishing sprint stage in Denver in the first year of the race — 2011.

“It was like a slow death,” Voigt said in a TV interview, describing the closing kilometer with the peloton chasing. He said the long straight lines to the finish and the wide streets did not bode well for his solo ride.

“But I just didn’t want to give up. I went all in … the story of my life,” said Voigt, a pro with 83 stage wins in a career that started in 1997. “Today that was all I had. I missed (by) 800 meters.”

Reijnen, the Boulder cyclist who won in Aspen, took over the sprint jersey Thurday.

Ben Jacques-Maynes of Jamis-Hagens Berman reclaimed the king of the mountains jersey. He won all three KOMs in the Garden of the Gods on Thursday.

Clement Chevrier, the French rider for Bissell Development, continues to lead the best young rider competition.

Voigt was awarded the most aggressive rider jersey to wear in today’s fifth stage.

Keegan Swirbul, the 18-year-old Aspen High School graduate who rides for Bissell, finished in the main group Thursday, mvong up to 58th in the overall standings. After a big time drop in Wednesday’s queen stage to Monarch Mountain, Swirbul rebounded with his Bissell teammates Thursday.

He is in his first year as a pro road racer.

He’ll be in the field today when the cyclists ride from Woodland Park to Breckenridge.

The 104-mile route is the second longest of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge. Start time is 11:20 a.m. in Woodland Park.

There is a sprint line in Fairplay.

There are two king of the mountain lines — one on Hoosier Pass, a category 2 climb, and one onBoreas Pass, a cat 3 climb.

At 11,500 feet, the cyclist will hit the high point of the USA Pro Challenge atop Hoosier Pass.

The finish is in Breckenridge on Moonstone Road with the final line at Washington and Main.

On Saturday, the cyclists will race in the Vail Time Trial, a 10-mile individual ride up Vail Pass. That will set the stage for the final stage Sunday, a 78-mile trip from Boulder to Golden, up Lookout Mountain, with a finish in downtown Denver.