UnitedHealthcare cleans up in Vail Pass time trial at Colorado Classic
VAIL — The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team had a good day in Vail on Friday.
The team took the top two spots in both the women’s and men’s contests at Colorado Classic’s Stage 2 event, a time trial up Vail Pass.
In the women’s race, Katie Hall and Leah Thomas went 1-2, finishing with times of 30 minutes, 8 seconds, and 30:34; and in the men’s race, Gavin Mannion and Serghei Tvetcov took the top spots with times of 25:41 and 25:52.
For a team that might not be around much longer, the performance couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It feels really special and a little bit bittersweet as a team because our team may be folding. We’re still looking for sponsors, but to go on to win both the men’s and women’s race just shows we really got a special thing going,” Hall said.
In the General Classification, both Hall and Mannion moved into the lead. Mannion’s time of 2:58:43 is 11 seconds ahead of Tvetcov, who currently sits in second for the men. On the women’s side, Hall leads the General Classification with a time of 1:53:09. The Vail Time Trial was the second of four stages in the Colorado Classic, which now heads to Denver for the remaining two stages.
EXCITING NEW START
Mannion said Friday’s stage win was the biggest result of his career.
“I’ve never won a race at this level before,” he said. “I know this course suits me well. I pretty much go into every time trial thinking I can win, or at least giving myself a fair shot. Normally it doesn’t pan out but today it did and so I’m definitely really happy with that.”
The stage was a reprise of the classic Vail Time Trial, which gained fame in the ’70s and ’80s with the Red Zinger and Coors Classic bike races, but it was altered slightly to begin near the base of Gondola One on Vail Mountain.
The riders began the course by descending into the dark tunnel that runs beneath Mountain Plaza, adding a measure of drama to the start.
“Through the bright sun it goes totally dark and you’re like ‘where is the turn?’” Tvetcov said. “That was pretty exciting, but nothing really changed compared to previous time trials.”
The new course is likely to be the future of the Vail Time Trial, as a course that activates more of the village core was a desire of the town of Vail in supporting the event. After exiting the tunnel, riders pass through the area of Vail Village known as “Checkpoint Charlie” before riding down Gore Creek Drive through the heart of the village.
Visiting from Denver, cycling fans Dean Ellis and Sarabeth Bjorndahl watched the Vail Time Trial from the Checkpoint Charlie area on Friday. In addition to other Colorado cyclists, they said they were there to cheer on Taylor Phinney after watching his father, Davis Phinney, compete in the ’80s and ’90s.
“We came specifically for this race, and we’ll be in Denver watching it there, too,” Bjorndahl said.
Vail is on contract for a three-year deal with the Colorado Classic. In addition to the Vail Valley Foundation, the race also received support from Vail Resorts and the town of Vail. The town of Vail contributed $310,000, as well as $65,000 in in-kind services.
Tom Boyd with the Vail Valley Foundation said initial feedback was good.
“There were no major concerns reported,” Boyd said. “For year one, we erred on the side of caution, looking to the future as locals get used to how this works — how much easier it is than you might realize to get in and out of town, how well designed these courses really are — I think we’re going to see some big crowd participation numbers.”
Mannion said at a Vail Time Trial event, you can always count on people lining Vail Pass cheering on the riders, and that was indeed the case again on Friday at the Colorado Classic.
“A Vail TT always has huge crowds on that bike path,” Mannion said. “You’re normally suffering pretty hard, so it helps to boost morale a little bit.”
Mannion said he also was impressed with the crowds at Thursday’s road race through the streets of Vail.
“There was a ton of people out on the dirt section,” he said. “There’s obviously limited road so it was pretty cool to see that they could put together an awesome course for a road stage as well.”
Mannion is a Massachusetts native who moved to Fort Collins last year.
“It’s awesome that Vail is supporting the race and wants to do (two) more years,” he said. “I think it’s a great town in Colorado and they always support the race really well.”
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