Expect aggressive Stage 4 attack on Indy Pass
ASPEN – USA Pro Cycling Challenge leader Christian Vande Velde expects the “ridiculously aggressive” pace of the first three stages to continue Thursday morning when the racers charge up the west side of Independence Pass to start their day.
“We’re taking every day as it is,” Vande Velde said. “We’ve been aggressive since day one, and we’re going to continue to be aggressive. We’re going to have to talk about what we’re going to do (Thursday).”
Tom Danielson – Vande Velde’s teammate on Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda and winner of Wednesday’s third stage – summed up the strategy succinctly: “Maybe go hard over Independence Pass,” he said.
Thursday’s 97.2-mile fourth stage starts at 11:35 a.m. at the Pitkin County Courthouse and climbs over Independence Pass before cruising the flats to Leadville and then tackling more steep terrain en route to Beaver Creek.
Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda has pushed a fast pace since the opening bell. In the Queen Stage on Wednesday, the team “caused a little mayhem” early on Cottonwood Pass after leaving Gunnison, Vande Velde said. Cottonwood Pass was the first of the 12,000-plus-foot passes of the day.
Team member David Zabriskie pulled Danielson while facing a stiff wind in the Arkansas Valley around Buena Vista. That put Danielson in position to dominate the breakaway.
“We came up with some crazy plans, and fortunately we had the legs,” Danielson said. “Today I bet you nobody thought it would work.”
The key, he said, was teamwork. “Everybody on the team put their hand in today, and we pulled it off,” Danielson said.
Danielson was part of a six-person breakaway on Cottonwood Pass. The group eventually splintered to four, and then just Danielson and racer Francisco Colorado. Danielson was able to drop him while attacking on the steepest stretch of the east side of Independence Pass.
Television spectators got to watch the entire battle up and down Independence Pass this year – something that wasn’t possible last year in the same stage because of technical difficulties during rainy and foggy weather. This year, race organizers employed a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft to ensure there was an image. For the most part, there was.
The ascent of Independence Pass came roughly 90 miles into Wednesday’s 130.6-mile stage. The steeper climb up the west side comes almost right off the bat today. If Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda doesn’t attack, someone will, Vande Velde predicted.
“I expect it to be quite aggressive, as usual,” he said at a news conference after Wednesday’s stage. “But in all honestly, I think a lot of people are quite tired. It’s been (three) very hard days of racing. Today I think we averaged 42 (kilometers) per hour, which I can’t believe with those two mountain passes that we went over.
“That said, this goes straight up Independence Pass, so one way or another, it’s going to be hard. I don’t know who’s going to throw the sand in the works. Maybe it’s going to be Tom again.”
Danielson shrugged off the suggestion that maybe he would attack.
“You guys think? I’m too tired,” he cracked.
Danielson, in a joking mood and not acting like someone who just spent five-plus hours on a bicycle, followed it up with a quip that maybe it would be Vande Velde in the yellow jersey that would attack.
“That’d be crazy, wouldn’t it?” he said with a laugh.
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