Aspen’s Tejay van Garderen takes yellow at Monarch
Aspen’s Tejay van Garderen rode his way to the top of the USA Pro Challenge on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old defending champion in the USA Pro Challenge used a dramatic late break on the final climb up to the Monarch Mountain ski area, leaving his general classification challengers in the dust.
Van Garderen, who finished fifth overall in the Tour de France, stood up and pedaled away from the small group headed up the slopes of Monarch Pass from the Salida side.
He broke free with one kilometer to go with only the top climber from the Tour de France on his wheel — Rafal Majka, the rider from Poland on the Tinkoff-Saxo team.
Van Garderen steadily raced to the finish with Majka unable to make a final attack.
The leader of the BMC team crossed the finish line and collected the yellow jersey as the overall leader of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge.
Majka finished second in the same time as van Garderen, vaulting up to second overall. Majka, who won the Tour of Poland two weeks ago after winning two stages of the Tour de France, is 20 seconds behind van Garderen.
Serghei Tvetcov, the Romanian riding for Jelly Belly, finished third on Wednesday’s stage that started in Gunnison and made a trip up and over Monarch Pass (11,300) from the west.
After two long circuits around the Salida area, they headed back up Monarch Pass to the 10,800-foot finish at Monarch Mountain.
Ben Hermans, van Garderen’s BMC teammate from Belgium, moved into third place overall. He’s 23 seconds back.
Tommy Danielson of Garmin Sharp finished fifth Wednesday. He’s fourth overall, 34 seconds behind van Garderen.
Stage 4 today is the Colorado Springs Circuit Race, featuring laps through the Garden of the Gods park.
The 70-mile circuit will feature a loop that racers will take four times.
The race will start at the Broadmoor and then head into downtown Colorado Springs, where USA Cycling is located. The route will include climbs through Garden of the Gods and the infamous Ridge Road climb, with grades of nearly 17 percent.
The race is scheduled to start at 12:50 p.m. in Colorado Springs.
On Friday, the USA Pro Challenge will go from Woodland Park — a new city on the tour — to Breckenridge via Hoosier Pass and Boreas Pass.
Hoosier hits 11,539 feet.
Mileage is 104 miles making it the second-longest leg of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge.
The sixth stage Saturday will be the famed Vail Individual Time Trial up Vail Pass. In the past it has been a definitive stage in the general classification standings.
The race will end Sunday with stage 7 from Boulder to Denver via Golden with a run up Lookout Mountain. The final stage will cover 78 miles. The riders will do three-and-a-half laps in downtown Denver to close the stage and the 2014 race.
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