Christian Vande Velde comes to the USA Pro Challenge as the defending champion, and is coming off a stellar team performance at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah that saw his Garmin-Sharp teammate, Tom Danielson, take the overall victory. VeloNews caught up with Vande Velde in Park City before the final stage in Utah.
VeloNews: You’ve had a great race in Utah.
Christian Vande Velde: Yeah, we’ve had a great race. We had Dave and myself coming back from injury, and Ryder’s still a little bit beat up from the Tour, but all in all the younger guys stepped up, like Lachlan [Morton], and Tom looking like he could take the win today. So, the team’s going very well; for me, personally, I’ve come a long way during this week considering where I was when I started, so I’m really happy with the way the week has progressed. That said, I’m very tired and looking for a little rest before Colorado.
VN: What do you think of the USA Pro Challenge course this year?
CVV: It’s going to be hard. It’s hard to say, but on paper, it’s much harder than in previous years, just with the placement of where the climbs are, toward the finish line, it could be a bit more explosive, especially the one going into Beaver Creek and into Breckenridge. They’re going to be hard days. And then, of course, the time trial.
VN: What are your thoughts on the TT given the fact that you lost by 0.58 seconds the last time it was used?
CVV: It’s hard, I don’t know how my form is going to be, and I really just wanted to have that record up Vail Pass. It wasn’t even the win but the record [I wanted], just to see my name in the books for years. Anyways, it’s gonna be fun; I love that time trial and I think it’s a great addition to the race each year because it’s easy for people to come up from Denver, and easy access off of I-70, and it’s a great amphitheater for people to watch in. And I like being to measure myself against the people of the past; I think it’s a cool gauge of, “This is my time Andy Hampsten and Bernard Hinault to Chris Froome and Richie [Porte] this year.”
VN: Given your form, are you going in looking to defend your title?
CVV: Of course, I’m going to defend. But first and foremost I just want someone from our team to get onto the top step. That’s our biggest goal every year. And to make the race; last year our team made the race from start to finish, with Tom smashing it through his alma mater [Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado], from kilometer zero on the first stage, and we didn’t stop until the time trial in Denver. So if we can do that again, I think that’s already a success.
VN: Is the Pro Challenge going to be your last race?
CVV: No, I’m going to keep going through the team time trial worlds.
VN: We’ve seen the likes of Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck come to the Pro Challenge, after Cadel won the Tour de France in 2011 for example, and they seem to take a vacation in Colorado. Do you think Sky will be on vacation?
CVV: No, they don’t vacation so much. I’m definitely not counting on that. I didn’t ever expect Cadel and Andy going fast over here, just because for Cadel he literally had to do an around-the-world trip to get here [after celebrations in Australia]. And I know Andy too well; he was fishing more than he was riding his bike. So, no, I think that Richie and Froome will be much different. I’m not saying they’re going to be putting their lives on the line to win the race, but at the same time if they have the opportunity to do it, they will.
VN: That being said, how do you match up against such a powerful team?
CVV: When you’re racing on your home soil, you’re that much more relaxed; you’re instantly 10 percent better. Our team has fared well in every race we’ve done over here in the United States. I don’t think we’re going to necessarily be outclassed but we’ll see. From day one it’s already going to be really hard; with that circuit race in Aspen, we’ll know right away what we’re dealing with.
VN: What would it mean for you to go out on top?
CVV: Oh man, it would be amazing. Two in a row? It’s not easy to do but … Anyways, I’m not going to get greedy, I just want the team to do well, first and foremost. And I want to be relevant; considering where I was two weeks ago — not even being able to ride my bike [Editor’s note: Due to his injuries at the Tour, Vande Velde was not able to ride hard because of inflammation and bone bruising in his knee, and he pulled one of the screws from his collarbone] — to where I am today, I’m extremely pleased that I could even say that I could be relevant in the race.