Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) wins the stage in Telluride.
First win of the season for Garmin sprinter
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) won his first race in over a year with a dominant sprint on stage 1 of the USA Pro Challenge from Durango to Telluride. Farrar had not won a race since July 4 of 2011 when he secured his first individual stage win at the Tour de France. But the American was in commanding form on the run in to Telluride, benefiting from earlier work from his teammates who had dominated the early break and then helped to set up a sprint finish over the demanding 202.1 km stage.
Alessandro Bazzana (Team Type 1-Sanofi) finished second with Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale) in third but Farrar leads the race after one stage.
As a sprinter, Farrar was surprised to be able to make it over the mountains in the finale to take an important win for the Garmin-Sharp team.
"I really had to turn myself inside out to make it over [Lizard Head Pass]," Farrar said. "I knew today could possibly be a sprint but I really wasn't sure I had the legs to make it, so I'm pretty happy to pull it off.
"Our home as a team is in Colorado, so we take this race really seriously, and to win here is huge. For me personally I have had kind of a disaster of a season so this means a whole lot to me to finally get a win."
Runner-up Alessandro Bazzana called Boulder, Colorado home for several years earlier in his career, but while he had trained at altitude, today was his first ever race result in rarified air. Nonetheless, when a 22-man break rolled off the front early in the stage he didn't think he'd be on the podium in the finale.
"After the first climb when Garmin showed the horsepower I expected the race to be over, but then all of my teammates went to the front, other teams helped, and thankfully we brought the breakaway back," Bazzana told Cyclingnews. "When I saw that the final two climbs weren't steep enough I realized it was going to be a sprint and I started preparing myself for that. In the end I only had Kiel Reijnen left because we were the two designated leaders for today, but everyone else had worked their ass off for us."
A 57-rider bunch arrived for the sprint finish in Telluride and Bazzana keyed off of a veteran fast man.
"I had eyed Freddie Rodriguez's wheel, I thought he was going to be the fastest one. With all the climbing I thought that maybe [Tyler] Farrar would be tired, but he wasn't. With the second to last turn it was pretty fast and pretty tight but luckily we managed to stay on our bikes and not crash. Rory Sutherland led out the sprint and we all came from behind."
The opening day of the USA Pro Challenge turned into quite the bonanza for Colorado-based Garmin-Sharp as Farrar won the stage, took the leader's jersey and also leads the sprint classification. Farrar's teammate Tom Danielson claimed the mountains jersey while Peter Stetina was awarded most aggressive rider. Danielson and Stetina almost rode off with the stage win, but the duo, the last surviving members of the early 22-man break, were swept up in the outskirts of Telluride.
High but not all dry
Under grey skies and comfortably cool temperatures, the 124-rider strong USA Pro Challenge peloton was given a raucous sendoff in downtown Durango. After a 5.4km neutral section the racing began in earnest for the 202.2km stage from Durango to Telluride.
Just 10.7km into the stage the riders faced their first of two intermediate sprints, with Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) taking top honours in Durango. The acceleration for the sprint caused a split in the peloton with several big-name riders emerging to form the early break. Amongst those going on the attack were Garmin-Sharp's Tom Danielson, Peter Stetina and Dave Zabriskie, plus Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
The lead group soon pushed out a 2:30 advantage over the peloton after 28km or racing while two separate chase groups trailed at 30 and 45 seconds respectively. The two chase groups soon consolidated into a unified force and managed to join the leaders just prior to the opening KOM, the category 3 ascent in Hesperus at 39.8km.
Andrew Bajadali (Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) crossed the KOM first, followed by Freddy Orlando Piamonte Rodriguez (EPM - Une) and Matt Cooke (Team Exergy) to lead the now 22-man lead group. Also riding at the head of affairs were Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Thomas Danielson, Peter Stetina, David Zabriskie and Lachlan David Morton (Garmin - Sharp), Michael Schär and George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), Vincenzo Nibali and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale), Tanel Kangert (Astana Pro Team), Ivan Rovny (RusVelo), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Cycling), Michael Creed (Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Joshua Atkins (Bontrager Livestrong Team), Serghei Tvetcov (Team Exergy) and Eduard Alexander Beltran Suarez (EPM-Une).
As the leaders rolled along Route 160 to the town of Mancos their lead stabilized at approximately five minutes with the BMC Racing Team and Team Type 1-Sanofi present at the front of the peloton setting tempo. By the time Serghei Tvetcov (Team Exergy) claimed the second intermediate sprint in Dolores the break's lead had been cut to 3:30 as they turned onto Rte. 145 and the very long grind to the Lizard Head Pass KOM, which tops out at 10,222 feet at 25km to go.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) could be seen talking to other riders in the break, urging them to keep up the tempo, and soon took matters into his own hands as he launched an attack. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) immediately marked the Italian and after a brief stalemate in the remainder of the break, six more riders struck out and bridged to Nibali and Danielson: Peter Stetina (Garmin - Sharp), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), Andrew Bajadali (Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Serghei Tvetcov (Team Exergy) and Eduard Alexander Beltran Suarez (EPM-Une).
Two more riders, Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Sharp) launched an extensive chase of their own and eventually reached the eight leaders with 77.5km remaining on the winding valley road in the San Juan National Forest.
The now 10-strong lead group's advantage stood at four minutes with both BMC and UnitedHealthcare sharing the pace-making at the head of the peloton, while Liquigas-Cannondale had their squad slotted in right behind. The remaining 12 riders originally in the break who couldn't keep the pace soon surrendered and were absorbed by the peloton.
The break lost a rider as David Zabriskie cracked spectacularly, upchucking his breakfast on the pavement. Prior to entering the town of Rico at 156.2km the Garmin-Sharp rider was barely hanging on to the back of the peloton.
"I was going pretty hard, pretty deep," Zabriskie told Cyclingnews. "And then the last super deep effort – I let the group split and then bridged up to those guys – that was pretty hard to get to them. I was planning to pull them and I finally, I don't know. The body said stop and my spirit said you're puking. I'll be all right."
With five kilometres to the Lizard Head Pass KOM, on the steepest pitch of the lengthy climb, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) and Eduard Alexander Beltran Suarez (EPM-Une) dropped their seven breakaway companions. Soon, Danielson dispatched of the Colombian and found himself alone in the lead amidst a steady sprinkling of rain. Beltran was joined by Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) to form a three-man chase while the peloton had narrowed their advantage to just over one minute.
After Danielson crossed the Lizard Head Pass ascent alone, the three chasers caught him on the descent while the peloton trailed at 50 seconds, having absorbed the rest of the escapees. As the four leaders began the ascent to the day's final KOM, the category 3 climb to Alta at 9,656 feet, UnitedHealthcare led the greatly diminished peloton's chase. Meanwhile, up the road, Danielson and Stetina turned the screws and dropped both Beltran and Nibali. The Garmin-Sharp riders crested the Alta KOM with a 35-second lead and and just 15 downhill and flat kilometres stood between them and the finish in Telluride.
The Garmin-Sharp duo bombed the 8.5km descent and then faced a flat 6.5km run-in to the finish. Danielson and Stetina fought valiantly, but were absorbed in the closing kilometres.
An immediate counter-attack was launched by Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Ben King (RadioShack-Nissan), who were soon joined by Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp). A hard-charging field, with UnitedHealthcare and Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies figuring prominently, shut the move down resulting in a 57-rider strong peloton sprinting for stage honours and the first leader's jersey.