COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (VN) — Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) won a brisk bunch sprint in front of U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters on Friday to take his second stage of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.
Farrar found himself stuck in traffic on the fast finale along Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs, but changed his trajectory and hit the line with plenty of time to post up for a celebration ahead of Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team) and Alessandro Bazzana (Team Type 1-Sanofi).
“We had to burn up a lot of our guys,” said Farrar, who also won on Monday, breaking a long dry spell. “That’s putting a lot of faith in me because we’re trying to win the GC.”
Phinney, who hit the deck on Monday’s stage, said he was glad to be coming around.
“I’m happy that my legs are finally feeling better after that crash put me in a little bit of a hole,” he said. “I was third wheel with 300 meters to go, then Tyler started coming around me with someone else and somebody else coming around him.
“I thought my sprint was over because I left it too late, but then I found a little gap and managed to weasel my way out. But by then, Tyler had opened his sprint already. I was gaining on him in the last 50 meters or so, but he was letting up and getting ready to celebrate.”
The 117.9-mile from Breckenridge saw cool temperatures for the ascent of 11,542-foot Hoosier Pass early on, with the gradual climb of 9,507-foot Wilkerson Pass next on the menu.
A break formed up quickly and began taking time. The septet — Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Carter Jones (Bissell), Oliver Zaugg (RadioShack-Nissan), Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing Team), Sergey Firsanov (RusVelo), Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy (Astana) and Liu Biao (Champion System) — had slightly more than four minutes on the yellow-jersey group as it approached the foot of Hoosier Pass, which in turn was followed by the 9,165-foot Ute Pass just before Divide and the long downhill run to Colorado Springs.
“My main goal is to win a stage,” said Nibali. “I came in after the Tour de France a little tired and didn’t know how I would feel. I’m feeling better everyday. Today was a day for (Damiano) Caruso, but I thought I’d give it a go.”
As for Liu, the Chinese rider was in search of some on-the-job training.
“The main purpose for me to break away with them was to learn from the world’s top riders,” Liu said. “I’m very glad that I stayed in.”
The break was down to Nibali, Zaugg and Firsanov and had just 30 seconds as the leaders hit the finishing circuit downtown, and a light rain was beginning to fall. BMC was massed at the front of the bunch for race leader Tejay van Garderen, dogged by Garmin-Sharp for Christian Vande Velde.
The circuit was mostly pan-flat, barring a little dip into and out of Monument Valley Park near Colorado College on the north end of downtown, and the roads were slick on the initial go-round.
Cameron Wurf (Champion System) and Ramiro Rincon (EPM-UNE) attacked the bunch coming off the short hill by the college, but it was still a three-man break out front crossing the finish line and beginning the first of three laps on the downtown circuit.
The gap was down to less than 10 seconds the next time around, and Wurf and Rincon had been pulled back.
Nibali and Zaugg shed Firsanov, but the peloton was breathing down their necks on the descent past the park and in seconds only their day was finally done.
Garmin’s Nathan Haas attacked coming off the CC hill, briefly taking a short gap. Then suddenly Liquigas-Cannondale’s Caruso and a teammate blasted forward and across the line on Tejon Street, apparently thinking that this was the end of the race, which it was not. The sprint leader sat up and looked over his shoulder after crossing the finish for the bell lap, about 60 meters in front of the bunch, then dropped back into the peloton and lost any shot at the stage win or defending his jersey.
“I saw them go,” said Farrar. ”I wasn’t sure if they miscounted the laps or tried to launch him. I’m not sure what their tactic was there.”
The attacks and counters continued in the final lap, but a bunch sprint was in the cards. And going into the final kilometer it was UnitedHealthcare setting up Jake Keough.
Karl Menzies was Keough’s last lead-out man, but Farrar was lurking just behind, waiting to jump.
The Garmin man jumped, got boxed in, then jumped again up the left side of the road, up against the barricades. And he collected his second stage win of the 2012 Pro Challenge.
Bazzana praised teammate Georg Preidler for keeping him on the front in the finale, but said that when push came to shove he just couldn’t match Farrar’s speed. When Optum’s Mike Friedman started the ball rolling, Bazzana said, Farrar got boxed in on the left and he went right, “but I just don’t have the kick that Farrar has.”
“I don’t have the power,” he added. “This isn’t my perfect finish. ”But knowing tomorrow is going to be so hard, so I preferred to give it a go today.”
Van Garderen held the overall lead, with Vande Velde second on the same time and Ivan Rovy (RusVelo) third at six seconds. Defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) continues to bide his time in fourth place overall, just eight seconds off the race lead going into Saturday’s critical Flagstaff Mountain stage in Boulder.
Tom Danielson held onto his mountains jersey ahead of Flagstaff. Teammate Farrar moved back into the green sprinter’s jersey, thanks to his victory in stage 5. “It’s nice to have it back,” he said, adding that while winning Monday was fine, “today was the day I had marked out.” Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) kept his best-young-rider jersey. And surprise, surprise — Nibali was elected the most aggressive rider of the day.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Colorado Springs.