» Chris Case Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Thu, 02 Oct 2014 00:16:03 +0000 hourly 1 Riding in Amy Dombroski’s muddy tire tracks Mon, 15 Sep 2014 22:10:15 +0000 Chris Case

Elle Anderson, pictured here at CrossVegas in Vanderkitten kit, will race for the Kalas-NNOF team in the coming 2014/2015 cyclocross season. Photo: Dave McElwaine |

Elle Anderson heads to the hallowed grounds of Europe this cyclocross season

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Elle Anderson, pictured here at CrossVegas in Vanderkitten kit, will race for the Kalas-NNOF team in the coming 2014/2015 cyclocross season. Photo: Dave McElwaine |

The revelation of the 2013-2014 American cyclocross season, Elle Anderson, is heading to the sport’s epicenter, basing herself in Belgium this season to focus on her first full European ’cross campaign. It’s a step that would have made another young Vermont native proud.

The parallels between Anderson’s career trajectory and that of the late Amy Dombroski, killed in a training accident last October in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium, are uncanny.

The two attended Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. Both were ski racers who suffered bad knee injuries that led them to their discovery of cycling. Now that Anderson has made the jump to the European circuit, their two paths are linked.

“I actually think about that often because I feel that I am traveling such a similar path to Amy, and the kind of emotions I feel about that are reassurance and gratitude,” Anderson said. “Because it’s reassuring to me to feel like I’m following Amy somewhere, that she’s been here before me and it’s all going to be okay because she made it through, and she’s made it just those few steps ahead of me.”

The comforting connections don’t end there. The reason Anderson will even get to race in Europe for her new Kalas-NNOF team (formerly KDL Cycling) has to do, in part, with Amy.

After Dombroski’s death, Anderson’s mother wrote a letter to Dombroski’s “European family” out of the blue.

Anderson’s mother had been reading some of the coverage about Dombroski’s Belgian hosts and how they were dealing with the loss. She struck up a correspondence with Victor Bruyndonx, the family’s patriarch.

“When I went over to Europe in December [to EuroCrossCamp], Victor just came and found me,” Anderson said. “He talked to me and started following my racing and when the season started to wrap up at world championships, it was almost his idea originally. He asked, ‘Are you going to come race in Europe? I’ll ask around for you and help you find some teams.’”

Though she was hesitant at first, Bruyndonx’s persistence paid off. Anderson will leave for Belgium the Monday morning after the Gloucester race weekend.

If you had asked her in January if she would race a full season in Belgium, she wouldn’t have had a clue, she admitted. Now, she’s ready to go, reassured by the friend who rode the muddy bergs before her, grateful of the opportunity to continue the legacy of a fallen comrade.

She will live with the same host family, even sleep in the same room that Dombroski used.

“When I stayed in Amy’s room, soon to be my room, in April, when I signed the contract, I could imagine and almost feel Amy’s presence still in the walls of that room,” Anderson said. “It makes me feel closer to Amy than I’ve ever felt in the past, like a part of her is still there and will follow me through my experiences to continue what could be considered the same story … or a sequel. I’m sure the feeling will fade a bit as I settle into my life in Belgium, and maybe it does border a little on creepy. But again, I can only imagine her to be happy knowing what I’ve set out to do. To be around people that supported her and that took care of her is really reassuring for me. I’m just grateful that maybe I can write a next chapter that she’s not able to write, and in some small way I can be continuing her dream, even though she’s not able to.”

The revelation

Coming into the 2013-2014 season, no American had beaten then nine-time national champion Katie Compton since 2006. Anderson’s was a name that few people had heard before, and then one day she was known for beating the legend, after doing so on the first day of the Providence Cyclocross Festival in early October.

Throughout the rest of the season, people expected ever bigger things from Anderson; by all accounts, she delivered, with four straight wins at both days of the Trek Cyclocross Collective Cup and Gran Prix of Gloucester on consecutive weekends, her third place at the Superprestige round in Diegem behind Belgian champ Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP), and her second place finish at the national championships behind Compton.

It was a big year, a breakthrough year. Is it a sign of more to come?

Anderson comes into the 2014-2015 season with an entirely new plan. She tackled CrossVegas, riding to a disappointing 15th, though she is looking to have better form once the move to Europe is behind her. She skipped the races in Boulder, Colorado, and will head to the Gloucester race weekend before it’s on to Belgium for the season.

She’ll continue to work for Strava, five hours a day, five days a week, while maintaining a full race schedule. Expectations are high, but the competition will be entirely new. She’ll start her first race in Europe just days after arriving, at the Superprestige kickoff in Gieten on October 5. She’ll race through February 28, after the world championships, and the traditional finish to the European ’cross season. She will only return to the U.S. for the national championships in January, and before that the Cincy 3 Cyclocross Festival weekend, along with the newly created Pan-American continental championships in early November.

“Even last year, when I kept having successes, I just kept going with the flow, having a lot of fun, letting that momentum carry me through the season,” Anderson said. “When everything is new, it helps deflect some of the pressure. It’s like, ‘Well, it’s another race; let’s see what happens.’ When I think about this coming year, I think I can ride the wave and let things come as they may because I’ve changed so many things from last year. In so many ways, I feel like I have another blank slate to write whatever I want. I don’t feel like a lot of people have big expectations of what I can do because I’m going to be in Europe, it’s going to be a completely new circuit, new competition, and I kind of just get to discover cyclocross from a whole new angle.”

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Powers cruises to victory at U.S. Open of Cyclocross Sun, 14 Sep 2014 01:20:22 +0000 Chris Case

Jeremy Powers cruised to victory at the U.S. Open of Cylcocross in Boulder, Colorado on Saturday

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BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) grabbed the holeshot on a dry, bumpy Boulder Reservoir course, then patiently gapped the field alongside Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement) and Allen Krughoff (Noosa), until unleashing a searing attack on the final lap and win comfortably in the U.S. Open of Cyclocross on Saturday, up by 25 seconds at the line.

It was Powers’ second podium appearance in four days; he finished third behind Sven Nys and Lars van der Haar at CrossVegas.

“I’m definitely a little tuckered still from Vegas — not even from the race, just all the things that happen at [InterBike] and the moving and the shaking and all that,” Powers said. “It’s a quick turnaround, and I think everyone [out there racing] was feeling the same way. I wasn’t feeling super, but it was enough to allow me to put down some power and the sharp stuff I was still able to kind of capitalize a little bit. It was a good race.”

The first lap saw Powers take the lead with Berden and Krughoff in tow, followed closely by Jeremy Durrin (Neon Velo) and Jamey Driscoll (Raleigh-Clement). By the end of the lap, however, Krughoff’s efforts at the front saw him pull Powers and Berden away from the group, and the trio had a 10-second lead going into the second lap.

It remained much the same for another lap, until Powers was caught up in some fallen course tape, and lost touch with Krughoff and Berden. Just before the start-finish pavement, Krughoff bobbled and slid out in a corner, allowing Powers to regain contact. The trio was back together again. Meanwhile, Driscoll powered his way around in no-man’s-land, 25 seconds back.

Soon after, Powers went to the front and pushed the pace, as Krughoff went into the pit to grab his second bike, allowing a gap to grow between him and the lead duo.

“Unfortunately, Jeremy started going for it just as I had to pit,” Krughoff said. “I got a bike change and jumped on the other bike, and I don’t think we had the tire pressure totally dialed. That one seemed a little higher, less comfortable around the corners, so I lost a bit more time. Got back on the other bike and got back into the rhythm, but by that time it was a 15-second gap. I knew that maybe if I went all-all in I could catch Ben, but then we have to race tomorrow.”

By the end of the fifth lap, Powers and Berden had stretched their lead to 12 seconds over Krughoff. Powers looked to Berden to pull through, but when there was no response from the Belgian, Powers attacked through a series of switchbacks in the opening half of the course. Krughoff, however, was changing back to his ‘A’ bike, losing more ground. By the end of lap seven, he was 20 seconds adrift.

Behind, Shawn Milne (Boulder Cycle Sport-YogaGlo) was attacking a group of eight, pulling Troy Wells (Clif Bar) and Jake Wells (Stan’s No Tubes) with him, riding in fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively.

Into the last lap, Powers had had enough. He immediately went on the attack, arcing through the dusty corners and pulling out time in each one. By the line he had enough of a buffer to sit up, adjust his Aspire Racing team jersey, high-five the gathered fans, securing victory by a comfortable 25 seconds over Berden. Krughoff cruised home for third, 45 seconds back.

Photo gallery from U.S. Open of Cyclocross.

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Sergey Tsvetkov storms the castle at the USA Pro Challenge Mon, 25 Aug 2014 15:13:44 +0000 Chris Case

Sergey Tsvetcov earned a surprising third place ahead of many notable climbers on stage 3 to Monarch Mountain. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

After a steady rise through the domestic ranks and a breakthrough podium finish in Colorado, Tsvetkov may make the jump to the WorldTour

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Sergey Tsvetcov earned a surprising third place ahead of many notable climbers on stage 3 to Monarch Mountain. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

DENVER, Colorado (VN) — Tejay, Tom … Tsvetkov?

While Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) comfortably defended his title at the USA Pro Challenge, and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) put in a valiant effort to come second in his beloved home race, Sergey Tsvetkov, of the comparatively minuscule Jelly Belly team, rode to an impressive — and for some, a head-scratching — third place overall against a truly world-class crop of riders and teams.

All in a day’s riding for the soft-spoken, mellow Moldovan (who races with Romanian citizenship).

“I try to race everyday like it’s another day; I don’t think about the GC and that’s probably how I get to be third now,” he told VeloNews. “Because if you try to stay, hold in GC, you don’t have an aggressive [mindset], and I just try to treat every day like a new day.”

Many fans were asking, “Who is this guy with the jelly beans on his kit?” Others, including his two WorldTour companions on the podium, weren’t at all surprised to see Tsvetkov standing beside them in downtown Denver.

“I’m not actually surprised. He’s put in some really good rides; he’s two-time national time trial champion,” van Garderen said. “I was just thinking it was a matter of time before he had a breakthrough ride. The whole time we were looking at the results sheet, we kind of kept saying, ‘There’s all the obvious guys like Danielson and Majka,’ but his name kept popping up, like, we should maybe keep an eye on him.”

If you are a scholar of the Pro Challenge, however, you know that Tsvetkov showed signs of serious talent years prior, riding for Exergy, on the stage from Durango to Telluride, in 2012. That day, he joined a breakaway with Danielson and current Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (then riding for Liquigas-Cannondale), among others. Danielson, for one, took notice.

“My first experience with Sergey was in 2012 on the stage from Durango to Telluride, when we were throwing bombs out, left, right, and center. ‘Who is this Exergy guy there who was going pull for pull?’ I was like, ‘Who are you, man? When are you gonna blow?’ And then I started to freak,” Danielson said. “We had Nibali there, Stetina and myself, and Serghei, and I kept looking at him and asking, ‘Who are you?’ And he’s a really nice guy. Ever since I’ve been following him — and I saw this year that he won Cascade criterium, on top of the time trial and all this other stuff — and I thought, ‘Uh oh.’ I’ve seen him up there the last couple of days and said this is gonna be trouble.”

It’s true that Tsvetkov has had an impressive rise through the U.S. domestic scene after moving over from the Tusnad cycling team in Romania. He won the time trial at the Tour of the Gila and finished 12th during the Folsom time trial at the Tour of California. Tsvetkov crashed hard during stage 1 of the Tour de Beauce in June, but persevered to finish third overall in the Canadian UCI 2.2 race.

Tsvetkov won the overall at the Cascade Cycling Classic this July for a second straight year, after taking two stage wins in the time trial and criterium. He nabbed three top-10 finishes at the Tour of Utah earlier this month in preparation for the more gradual climbs of Colorado that he prefers.

But his performance at the Pro Challenge, where he finished third on the climbing stage 3 to Monarch Mountain (20 seconds down on stage winner van Garderen), third in the sprint the next day on the circuit race through Colorado Springs (in the same time as stage winner Elia Viviani of Cannondale), and third in the stage 6 Vail time trial (losing 1:08 to stage winner van Garderen), was a display of his comprehensive skillset.

“If you ask any of the Continental managers who have seen him race over the past four years, this is not a project that happened overnight,” said Danny van Haute, director of the Jelly Belly team. “He’s been in the States the past four years — two years with Exergy and two years with us — and we’ve seen his progress every year: 10 percent better, 20 percent better. And now it’s at that point that he needs to graduate.”

Not surprisingly, the calls from WorldTour teams are coming left and right. Though he hasn’t made any decision yet, nor signed any contracts, his prospects continue to rise after his display in his adopted home state of Colorado, where he has lived in Golden since 2012.

“The calls started coming a few weeks before the start of this race. And they’ve … accelerated [laughs],” said van Haute.

The move to the WorldTour would mean a reevaluation for Tsvetkov, something he’s well aware of.

“I understand that if I move up, I will work hard for other guys because there are a lot of strong guys,” he said. “I’m ready for that. Now, I have opportunities to be a leader on Jelly Belly, and they really support me well, the guys were riding amazing. I’m just happy now to be a GC contender. But I’m looking everyday as a new day. If I have a sprint day, I try for sprint. If I have to climb, I will climb. It looks like I can do almost everything …”

Indeed it does. Especially in the thin air atop Monarch Pass where he beat the high-altitude specialist Danielson, among a slew of other more well known climbers. It all had to do with a new mindset that saw him being patient rather than persistent.

“That [stage] was huge for me. Just awesome,” he said. “My first goal was just to stay in the first group. In the end, I realized, ‘Wow, everyone is tired, I’m not fresh [either], probably those guys just attack each other too early and now I have a chance.”

On the back of that performance, he continued to ride quietly and intelligently, conserving energy whenever possible, learning to ride with reserve, and trusting that the hard work that he had put into the sport would repay him with results. It was the opposite approach to years past when he looked to bring attention to the team with breakaway efforts and stage wins.

“I am glad that the work that I have done has paid off, because when you’re working hard, you try to train well, sleep, ride, and everything, and get this result,” he said. “It’s not so much a surprise; everything is working. Everything is possible.”

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On the verge: Carter Jones, the ever-present contender Sun, 24 Aug 2014 03:42:31 +0000 Chris Case

Near the top of Hoosier Pass, Carter Jones (Optum) tried a short-lived attack, only to be caught before the summit. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Over the past three weeks, Carter Jones (Optum) has climbed alongside Cadel Evans, Tom Danielson, Chris Horner, Tejay van Garderen, and

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Near the top of Hoosier Pass, Carter Jones (Optum) tried a short-lived attack, only to be caught before the summit. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

VAIL, Colorado (VN) — If you watched stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge, you likely noticed the blue streaks of an attacking Tom Danielson high on the slopes of Monarch Pass, as he attempted to ride away from the field. If you caught the final stage of the Tour of Utah a few weeks earlier, you probably saw the bright red charge of Cadel Evans as he churned his way over the top of Empire Pass in pursuit of his second stage win.

And if you were watching closely, you would have seen the bright orange helmet and whirling yellow socks of Carter Jones on either of those days, pedaling alongside some of the world’s strongest riders.

Jones (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) climbed beside Evans (BMC Racing) in Utah’s final stage, over the top of the precipitous Empire Pass, as the two rallied to bring back a trio of the world’s best climbers: Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), Chris Horner, and Winner Anacona (both Lampre-Merida).

At the Pro Challenge, nearly 11,000 feet above sea level on stage 3, Jones threw down his own attacks in response to Danielson’s ill-fated efforts, contending for the win amongst a group of elite protagonists, including Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing).

In the rare opportunities he’s had as a domestic Continental pro to face off against the WorldTour elite, Jones has been one of the mightiest challengers for almost two full seasons.

First in the King of the Mountain classification at the 2013 Amgen Tour of California. Eighth overall at the 2013 Tour of Utah. First overall at the 2014 Tour of the Gila. Seventh overall at the 2014 Tour of Utah. And now he sits eighth at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge with one stage left.

It’s been a steady, skyward ride.

“I just set my goals on improving over last year, looking for improvement year to year,” Jones said. “Frankly, I surprised myself last year. I was like, ‘Oh, I can climb.’ Climbing is all about confidence. Luckily, I was able to gain that confidence, ‘Ok, I can climb with these guys.’ That was kind of at [Utah] last year. And I proved it again at Colorado last year, and California this year. So I want to improve upon that — last year I was definitely hanging on in the climbs. This year, I’d like to be more a part of the race rather than surviving.”

Climbing beside Evans, Danielson, and van Garderen would constitute being a part of the race in most people’s eyes. But for the New Jersey native, it still hasn’t been enough.

After his performance on stage 7 in Utah, Jones seemed more placid than elated. After losing time to the main contenders after stages 2 and 3 in Colorado, he couldn’t really see the positive side. He just wanted more.

Anyone who is left unsatisfied by hanging with a Tour de France champion, in Evans, on one of the toughest climbs in the U.S., on Empire Pass (which is nearly equivalent in length and gradient to the much-feared Angliru in Spain), has the heart of a champion. But can he become a champion?

“Just seeing how motivated, and how focused, and how driven he is, is really impressive to me,” said Optum teammate Jesse Anthony. “He’s working so hard with his future in mind — I’m not exactly sure what his goals are; every kid that age wants to get to the WorldTour — and I really hope he gets an opportunity to do that and race some really big races.”

But the WorldTour?

“I’m talking to a lot of teams… my goal is to get to the WorldTour,” Jones said. “Who knows? At this point, I’m riding as well as I can; I’m doing everything I can. It’s just a matter of the stars aligning.”

His consistency may be his greatest strength, but the flash and drama of a great result — a stage win, or an overall podium at one of the three big American stage races — may go farther toward convincing a WorldTour team that he has what it takes to ride at the next level.

His time trial performance on Saturday at the Pro Challenge wasn’t exactly what he hoped for. He dropped one place, to eighth overall, behind Ben Hermans (BMC Racing). But he fights on.

Someone who knows Jones well, Omer Kem, sport director for the Bissell Development team, and someone who directed Jones for three years before the team became a development program, wasn’t sure that the WorldTour was the only place for Jones.

“You look at what he is doing, you look at what [Serghei] Tvetcov is doing, you look at what [Joey] Rosskopf is doing: In another year, Continental teams are going to be winning these races,” said Kem. “Because the WorldTour teams come here tired, with a bunch of guys that don’t want to be here. There’s a career here for these guys in the U.S. because the TV [coverage] is getting better, there’s more and more money coming in, there’s more sponsors that are interested because you have four or five events that are live in TV every day for a week. That’s a lot of exposure. Carter has made those incremental gains. I’m proud to say I was able to take him on and devoted a lot to him.”

If the stars align and Jones heads to the roads of Europe, or if he stays in the U.S. and continues on as a Continental stand out, be sure to watch for him beside the best climbers in the world, whether they’re wearing bright red, royal blue, or any color in between.

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Velo Magazine — September 2014 Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:52:04 +0000 Chris Case

The September issue of Velo provides complete coverage of the 2014 Tour de France.

September is the Tour de France edition, and it is combined with the official guide to the USA Pro Challenge

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The September issue of Velo provides complete coverage of the 2014 Tour de France.

006_VeloSep044_VeloSep 066_VeloSepThe most anticipated Velo issue of the year is here. The Tour de France edition, with all the race analysis and tech features Velo readers have come to expect, is combined with the official guide to the USA Pro Challenge.

This double September issue contains everything you need to know about the world’s biggest bike race, which started in Great Britain and was full of drama, crashes, surprises, and a dominant performance by Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali.

Velo takes you week-by-week through the Grand Boucle, beginning with Nibali’s perfect ride. From the cobbles of stage 5 that saw Chris Froome abandon the race, to the Alberto Contador’s crash and the epic ride of Tony Martin in the first half of the race, our reporters were on the ground to capture all of the action.

Though the Tour started in Britain, the British riders did not fare well, with star sprinter Mark Cavendish crashing out on stage 1 and five-star favorite Froome suffering through a series of crashes.

Marcel Kittel claimed his rightful spot atop the sprinting throne for the second consecutive year in France, and his coronation is highlighted in the issue.

On the tech side, the Tour is often used as a showcase for new and improved equipment, and this year was no exception. Read all about the latest, most technologically advanced equipment to debut in the pro peloton.

The second half of the Tour was no less dramatic, as the rise of several French riders took center stage throughout the final stages. American hopeful Tejay van Garderen struggled, then persevered to preserve a top-5 finish in Paris. Read all about his rocky road.

The Garmin-Sharp team also saw emotional, mixed fates, from Andrew Talansky’s solo ride to beat the time cut, to Jack Bauer’s agonizing defeat at the line.

Finally, the mighty Peter Sagan had an interesting July, without a victory, but a dominant display of control in the green jersey competition.

Outside of France, our tech team took a look at new carbon clinchers, reviewing eight of the best on the market. While they used to turn heads for the all the wrong reasons, these wheelsets prove that the technology is ready for primetime.

When you’ve reached the end of Velo’s Tour coverage, flip the magazine over and treat yourself to the official USA Pro Challenge guide. Read detailed descriptions of each of the race’s seven stages and 16 teams, an in-depth analysis of seven riders to watch, a page of helpful tips for fans new to bike racing, and information on the “must-see moments” that could determine overall contenders. Racing in Colorado’s mountains presents challenges all its own: discover how the altitude will affect rider performance and find out why all pros carry a “rain bag” in their team car for the inevitable bad-weather racing day.

All this and much more, in the September issue of Velo.

Subscribe now to receive Velo magazine every month.

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Q&A: Ivan Basso still aspires to be at the top Tue, 12 Aug 2014 19:16:48 +0000 Chris Case

Ivan Basso got in the breakaway on stage 4 of the Tour of Utah, but he struggled to find his high-altitude form during the week-long race. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Basso talks about the Tour of Utah, the USA Pro Challenge, where he’s been, where he wants to go, and his parents’ blueberry farm

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Ivan Basso got in the breakaway on stage 4 of the Tour of Utah, but he struggled to find his high-altitude form during the week-long race. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

PARK CITY, Utah (VN) — Ivan Basso wasn’t in the hotel lobby at 10 a.m. to meet me as we had arranged. He wasn’t in the hotel parking lot at the team bus, either; but the mechanic thought that his room might be on the second floor.

I headed upstairs, happy to find another Cannondale teammate riding his bicycle through the dimly lit hallway of this Park City hotel. Do you know where Ivan is staying? I asked.

There was a moment of hesitation, and then he was certain it was room 209. When Basso opened the door, he was in his underwear, talking in Italian on his mobile phone, standing at the doorway looking confused.

“Hi Ivan, we were supposed to meet and chat in the lobby,” I said.

“Ah, si, si, come in, we will do it here,” he said, as he took a seat on the bed and patted the sheets for me to sit next to him.

For the next 15 minutes, Basso, with his long, two-tone legs crossed and his t-shirt pulled down over his lap, and I talked about the Tour of Utah, the USA Pro Challenge, where he’s been these past few years, where he wants to go, and the likelihood that he would retire to his parents’ blueberry farm.

VeloNews: Did you perform the way you wanted to in the Tour of Utah? (He finished 42nd overall, 58:59 behind winner Tom Danielson — Ed.)
Ivan Basso: I know it is difficult, because I arrive here in the difficult part of the season. I arrive here to try to do my best, to get the good condition. When you arrive here you have three things: the jet lag, the altitude, and the third thing is most important — you need to be ready to make good, hard efforts at 3,000 meters [9,842 feet]. That is what I do this week; I expect that, in my condition, I can’t have a race with the top riders, but I have to try to go in the break like I did [on stage 4]. I’m pretty sure that the work for this week is important for [the USA Pro Challenge].

VN: What is the goal in Colorado?
IB: I think it [has been] too long a time to not be in the top positions, so it is better to go step by step. Of course, my ambition is always high, but it is difficult to say that I will [stay with the best riders] when you don’t have any good results in the last [several] months. I want to try to stay with the top riders, of course.

VN: Having won the Giro d’Italia twice, having stood on the podium at the Tour de France, are you frustrated that you’re no longer racing at that level?
IB: No, because sometimes I invest all of my energy … the last part of the last season, Tour of Beijing, Lombardia, I do well (He finished ninth overall in Beijing, and 11th at Il Lombardia — Ed.). The problem is I invest all of my energy in the Giro, and the Giro didn’t go well, and it is not easy to restart. But I’m pretty confident that from Colorado to the end of October, [I will] close very well.

VN: In early August, La Gazzetta reported that you were headed to Tinkoff-Saxo for 2015. Can you confirm that you will be moving to Tinkoff-Saxo for next season?
IB: That is not the point [I’m focused on]. In my head, now, we have to do well here. For me, the only thing that is important is to do good at the race in front of me. The rest, we have time to think. We still have time to decide. I don’t want to decide what we do in the future until I feel okay [with it]. Now I’m focused on Cannondale and doing well for Cannondale.

VN: You have said that you want to build your reputation for having had a long career.
IB: When you ride many, many years, you have to give to the young riders something. You have to show them [by example]; they have to follow you.

VN: Is that a satisfying place to be at this point in your career?
IB: Well, it’s one of the pleasures. But I do want to stay in with the top riders until I can’t. [It isn’t the same] for everybody. Some at 34 years old, they stop. Some riders at 37 or 41, like Horner, they are okay. But it depends; not everybody is the same. The most important thing is to do your best, and if you do your best, the bike gives you back what you give to her.

VN: Are you under more pressure now to perform?
IB: No, because I do 100 percent. The people, the team, the fans, everybody knows that I do my best. Everybody sees how I train for the Giro. If I finish 15th [as I did in 2014], of course, that’s not good, but if you do 100 percent, that is life. But, I think the most important [thing] is to be happy about what you do. I go ride, I’m happy, and I try to do my best like I did [on stage 4]. It’s nothing, I know, but I was in the break for 120K, so you want to do something. Yesterday [stage 6], I want to stay with the top group, but I have to drop [off the pace]. I have a pain [in my chest]; I almost die! I feel like I will crash off the bike. You have to take off the gas, go easy, and try again later. In my head, I’m already in Colorado. I think, ‘I’ve [spent] three weeks here in Utah: jet lag is okay, altitude is okay, now the third point is okay, to go full-gas at altitude.’ If you adapt at altitude and you never go full-gas, and it’s the first time, [he makes a choking gesture]. If you don’t do efforts, high power at altitude, the first time you go full-gas, you are f—ked. It is incredible. You have on the climb a pulse of 170-175 [bpm]; when you go down it is the same, it doesn’t go down.

VN: Your parents own a blueberry farm. Is that something you hope to go into when you retire?
IB: We’ll see. I give all of my life to the bike. I’ve never told any journalist this but, when I retire, I want to be … (Basso struggled to find the right word, but later it was revealed he wanted to be a mentor and manager of young talent).

I started [cycling] when I was very young. I want to study to be important in one team in the future. Because, I think, sometimes the big difference in a riders’ results comes from the small things. I rode for many years on the same team. What is important, I have a lot of information in my head, I feel like I have a good feeling for the young rider. So, maybe in the future, blueberry farmer. But my idea, now, is to study to give all of my experience to [young riders]. Because I’m not a ‘hors-categorie’ rider; I build my career with my head, so I’m sure I can do this. When you are a cyclist, you don’t get a contract or money because you are nice or you are friendly. You get this because you are working well. So what I want to do is to start again like a neo-pro in the management role.

But that is a long [time from now], because I want to ride more, with different goals, but I still want to ride well for a few more years. But after that I want to start a new career like a neo-pro; I think I’d be good [at] that; I know I could do something nice for one team, but it’s not important what I say, it’s important that I show it. Start again from the low level, and go up.

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With pressure to defend in Utah, Danielson rides to victory Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:57:31 +0000 Chris Case

Tom Danielson celebrated his second Tour of Utah win on the podium. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

American Tom Danielson repeats as Tour of Utah champion after a slow start to 2014

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Tom Danielson celebrated his second Tour of Utah win on the podium. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

PARK CITY, Utah (VN) — The result was the same, but the method was mighty different.

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) defended his overall victory at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, but he did it in dominating fashion this year — rather than, as he said, stumbling into the opportunity after helping young teammate Lachlan Morton defend the yellow jersey last year. He was aided by a young, inexperienced team that stepped into the void to help him land a second straight title.

It came on the heels of a disappointing 2014 early season that was filled with personal difficulties, lackluster results, injuries, and ailments.

“I’m proud of myself for being a good leader this week … I have to thank my team for sticking with me and believing in me this year,” Danielson told VeloNews. “[General manager Jonathan Vaughters] could have sent me a bunch of nasty e-mails saying, ‘OK man, we pay you a lot of money, you need to do something, you’re sucking.’ Instead, he said, ‘Alright, we have faith in you, you just go do your thing.’ So I was really happy to get this victory for those guys, it means a lot.”

Danielson retreated to his home and training terrain in Tucson, Arizona, using the slopes of Mount Lemmon to dial in his fitness, find happiness, and set out on a late summer blitz through the second half of the season. His big lungs and heart were there from birth; he has learned through experience that he prefers the relatively lower altitude of his Arizona training camp to the high alpine terrain of Colorado to hone his form. And hone it he did.

He came into the race saying he was on great form, but the evidence was lacking. He didn’t take long to prove any doubters wrong; his grinding performance on his way to a stage victory atop Powder Mountain was near perfect, and set the stage for his team to take control of the race by the straps of its bibs.

Not only that, but Danielson seemed to be relishing the leadership role that he has struggled to manage over the years. He stepped up, and his team backed him with complete faith.

“He’s great [as a leader],” teammate Ben King told VeloNews. “He gets really excited. He’s an older guy and he still gets excited about bike racing, so that motivates the team, keeps the morale up. After the first stage, when I was suffering a lot, he came to the room and he gave me this pep talk, telling me that coming off the Tour I’ve got a big engine and I just need a little time to get started.”

King certainly fulfilled his duty to the team, and to Danielson, slaving at the front of the race and sacrificing himself day after day, having just finished his first Tour de France only eight days before the Tour of Utah set off in Cedar City.

“On paper, I might have looked like I was struggling — on the first day I had one of the worst days on the bike, coming from sea level, eight days after the Tour, jet lag, I suffered a lot on the bike — but I think I just had to sweat out some French fries and ice cream I ate after the Tour de France,” King said. “On paper it might look like I had a pretty bad week, but I’m proud of my performance here. It was a big team effort for Tommy D. Honestly, I finished way behind, but it might be one of the best Tours of Utah I’ve ridden, in my abilities to support the team, the work that I did on the front all week, chasing big breakaways and keeping them under control.

But the effort wasn’t without its difficulties and mistakes. Alex Howes, for one, readily admitted that the team’s inexperience showed. They may have had the legs, they may have been strong throughout the week, but they were still young and, at times, disorganized.

“That just kind of shows that we’re a young team. Honestly, I think we learned quite a bit in this one week,” Howes told VeloNews. “This was the first time that guys like me and Ben were out there calling the shots. To be honest, we screwed it up a couple times. But I think we’re really happy with the way things went. Obviously we won, and we’re pretty excited about that.”

Whether Danielson can take his newfound leadership skills and cajole his young team in Colorado, for the USA Pro Challenge, as he did in Utah is yet to be seen. Having gone to college in the state, at Fort Lewis College, and lived in Boulder for many years, Danielson considers the USA Pro Challenge to be his home race. He’d like nothing more than to take victory in his backyard.

“I wish we were doing the same climbs in Colorado that we have [in Utah],” Danielson said. “Obviously, my form is really good. I wish we had the same climbs and the same scenario. But Colorado is a little bit more difficult of a race to win because of the shallower climbs. I’m not going to take anything for granted. I’m going to show up in good condition and do the best I can. I’ve been training on my time trial bike but we all know that Tejay [van Garderen] lit it up last year. So he’s the favorite and I’m going to enjoy my victory here for now.”

If he were to carry his form through to victory at the Pro Challenge, it would make for a late summer blitz to rival anything he’s earned in his lengthy career. But for now, he’s reveling in the victory in a race that seems built for the Connecticut native. Among all of the head-turning performances at Utah — Michael Schär’s (BMC Racing) stunning breakaway to take stage 2; Eric Young’s (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) blazing sprint to take the sprint victory in Kamas; Joey Rosskopf’s (Hincapie Development Team) breakout performances, both on stage 2 and stage 6 — Danielson’s was also a long time coming for a rider who was once viewed to be the American successor to Lance Armstrong.

“I love [the Tour of Utah], I think it’s insane… Steep mountains at altitude, this is my race. It was really cool to have all that pressure and do all of that. Colorado is a race that I would love to win, but the course is just not me. Is it realistic to say I want to win? Of course I do — everyone else wants to win, too. And this year we have a mountaintop finish, it’s going to be insane, really hard to control, I would love to win it. But I would have to say this victory here has been something that I’ve wanted to do my whole career. It was really cool to come in as a favorite, defend, and win it convincingly, being a leader with my team and being tactically savvy.”

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Joey Rosskopf steps up for the second time at the Tour of Utah Sun, 10 Aug 2014 04:23:51 +0000 Chris Case

Joey Rosskopf leads the break over the summit of Guardsmans Pass. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

The man his team calls King Joey rode out of his mind on the queen stage of the Tour of Utah, putting in a second head-turning performance

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Joey Rosskopf leads the break over the summit of Guardsmans Pass. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

SNOWBIRD RESORT, Utah (VN) – He didn’t win, but he doesn’t really care.

Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Development Team), the young man his team calls King Joey, rode out of his mind on the queen stage of the Tour of Utah Saturday, putting in a second head-turning performance of the week.

But the humble 24-year-old from Georgia wasn’t so much blown away with his narrow loss to Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), a former world champion and 2011 Tour de France champion; he was just pleased with the fact that he was riding like he never had before.

“[It was] kind of a heartbreak, but a lot less so than Tuesday when I was off the front and just got caught by the field with 3K to go,” Rosskopf said. “Actually, it’s not a disappointment. Cadel was the only one to beat me. It would have been awesome to win; it would have been unbelievable. But I’m super pleased. If I got caught by [the chase group] and got 10th on the stage, I still would have been pretty pleased. But I was okay doing a little more work in the last K or two, staying away from those guys, to take it down to three riders and sprinting for the win. I have to be pleased with that. I’ve never done this before.”

His performance on stage 2 was the first after which the question started to percolate: Was that a career-changing ride?

“I’ve heard a few stories about him,” stage 6 winner Evans said. “He’s certainly got a lot of potential. I admired him when we caught him with about 10K to go on stage 2; he was going absolutely flat out until the last meter even though the group was 100 meters off him. He seems to have a lot of ambition. I think with ambition and talent, a rider can go a long way with that. I may have to go and speak with Mr. Hincapie about his future there.”

Though Rosskopf said he hadn’t been talking to any teams, hadn’t heard anything about a contract, two massive rides in one week, in one of the highest-profile stage races in the U.S., can only lead to good things.

“He deserved every bit of the attention he got today. He rode well,” Euser said. “You know, the Trek guys sat on all day, so did Jens. I’ve lost all respect for those guys. Jens was cursing at me up Emigration Canyon; he’s lost respect for the sport. And guys like Joey Rosskopf have all the respect in the world for it. And he’s going to go a long ways. It’s time for the Jenses of the world to leave, and it’s time for the Joeys of the world to step up.”

His physique isn’t that of your typical climber; he’s thicker, stronger in the upper body and arms. In fact, he’s known as a time trialist. But it was his two performances on incredibly challenging terrain – stage 2 covered 130.7 miles and over 10,000 feet of climbing, while stage 6 traversed 107.2 grueling miles with 12,643 feet of elevation gain – that turned heads.

“He spent a lot of time up at altitude down at Mount Lemmon in Arizona before Cascade,” said teammate Robin Carpenter, another young Hincapie rider who has had a stellar performance in Utah, wearing the King of the Mountains jersey, and swapping it back and forth with Rosskopf nearly the entire race. “He got really skinny, and he’s always had the power to just go at it when he chooses to. Everybody says he’s a time trialist, but he’s really just a hammer.”

His talent in the hills is, however, a newfound ability. Last year, he noted, if he had come to the base of the Little Cottonwood Canyon finishing climb of stage 6, even if he had been with a group of 20 and sitting on all day, he would have gotten dropped on the climb. He has made huge strides in his development as a strong rider.

Not that his performance is a surprise to anyone that knows Rosskopf. From those in the peloton, to his sport director that has worked with him for the past two seasons, everyone is certain that Rosskopf is going places — fast.

“Not in the least [am I surprised],” said Hincapie sport director Thomas Craven. “I’ve known this guy just for a couple of years, and seen him…the way he races, the way he rides, and the way he trains, and his commitment to it. We call him King Joey because he’s the strongest guy on the team. The ride that he had at Redlands earlier this year, the rides that he had last year, we didn’t even chase the NRC points at all and he ended up second. Back to the question: No, [I’m not surprised], he’s a Superman.”

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Sprints and climbs, Optum tries to do it all in Utah Sat, 09 Aug 2014 13:31:37 +0000 Chris Case

Mike Friedman led Optum in the chase to set up Eric Young's big sprint win. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Optum brought a talented climber and several bulky sprinters to a seven-stage race with over 57,000 feet of elevation gain; on Friday, it

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Mike Friedman led Optum in the chase to set up Eric Young's big sprint win. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

KAMAS, Utah (VN) – Dubbed America’s “toughest stage race,” the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah has the reputation for being a climbers’ paradise.

So, it was curious when Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies announced its team roster for the seven-day race — a squad that includes sprinters Eric Young and Brad Huff, as well as thicker men like Mike Friedman and Tom Soladay for a course that features over 57,000 feet of elevation gain.

This was a team that also brought climber Carter Jones, a rider who took overall victory at the mountainous Tour of the Gila in May, the King of the Mountains classification at the 2013 Tour of California in 2013, while finishing eighth overall, and eighth on GC at last year’s Tour of Utah. This is a climbers’ race. Who was going to support Jones when the road turned up?

And then Eric Young blazed to victory in Kamas on stage 5, in front of an international WorldTour field, taking what he called the biggest win of his career. It all made sense.

“In front of a bunch of WorldTour teams, an international field. It feels…pretty good,” he said.

With one kilometer to go, teammate Alex Candelario took Young up the left-hand side of the group, passing everyone.

“That was great, but he’s not going to be able to go out of the saddle for a 1,000 watts for a whole K. He started to run out of gas at that point and then you just have to be a sprinter, you just kind of have to get creative,” Young said.

Young couldn’t jump at 500 meters to go, so in a split second he looked around and found the wheel of Jelly Belly’s Sergei Tvetcov. He latched on.

“I just kind of sat there for a moment, caught my breath; I saw the 300 meter to go sign and I knew that was mostly within my range, so I was like, ‘Alright, we gotta go now!’” Young said.

Even at this point in his career — one that includes national criterium championships in 2011 and 2013 — Young might be more famous for his wins as a student at the University of Indiana at the Little 500, the last of which led his Cutters team to its record-breaking fifth straight win.

Perhaps that will finally end, as his blazing-cadence style propelled him to a world-class win.

“I’ve always had pretty good leg speed. I think it’s just something you’re born with. But today was a hard day, so I was happy to have anything left at the end of the day,” Young said. “Candelario did a great job the whole day of kind of protecting me, especially through that dirt section and the whole last 20K to go, I was just kind of following him through the group and we were always within the top 15. It’s really important to have a teammate like that, he’s so experienced, and this is his last year. It’s been really fun racing with him and to reward the whole team with a win today. It was awesome.”

It wouldn’t have been a victory at all had his team not killed themselves to bring back a powerhouse breakaway featuring Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing), Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), Utah native Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare), Kirk Carlsen (Jelly Belly), and Hincapie teammates Oscar Clark and KOM jersey wearer Robin Carpenter.

“It was…unbelievable. We brought our speed team here, and I’ve never seen guys go downhill so fast – I was literally struggling to hold the wheel in front of me,” Jones said.

It wasn’t until they were on that descent that Optum found out that two-time stage winner Moreno Hofland (Belkin), wearer of the points classification jersey, was out of the race. And, then, the gap was growing. Optum’s Jesse Anthony went back to talk to sport director Jonas Carney, and he told Anthony to rally the troops.

“My guys were up to the task; they just kind of manned up and did it,” Young said. “I’m really happy; I would have felt bad if I hadn’t been able to win because they worked really hard.”

Soladay, Friedman, and Anthony went to the front, with help from SmartStop and Garmin-Sharp, and struck out in pursuit of the break, all the way down the descent into Kamas. Then, SmartStop stopped riding. And it was back to just the three Optum men.

“Optum today…. That was really, really impressive. That was a really strong break. Watching those guys bring that break back like they did and then topping it off with a crazy dirt road and all these turns, and all these teams quacking them, and they still win the stage,” said race leader Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp).

But it meant the team exploded. Whereas Jones had the full support of the team yesterday, taking a hard-earned eighth place atop Powder Mountain — a climb he was terrified of, which turned out to be even worse than he anticipated — the team transformed into a sprint team for stage 5.

“They supported me unbelievably all day yesterday. But we got our stage win today, so it’s unbelievable,” Jones said. “We blew our whole team [chasing]. It was pretty terrifying when we turned that [last] corner and into a block crosswind and Alex led it out. We knew Eric was fast, like, really, really fast. We just had to get him a clear shot at the finish line. He took it from so far into the wind that no one could come around him. It was unbelievable.”

Now, the team will turn its attention back to Jones, hoping to protect or improve upon his top-10 standing in the overall classification.

The Boulder, Colorado, resident explained that he didn’t see the need to have a lot of support in the mountains. He was satisfied to have all the pressure on himself to finish off the climbs at the end of the stages. And, with the team they’ve brought, they’ve been close to the podium in three of the five stages thus far, and atop the podium on stage 5.

“When it comes down to the mountains, I don’t need much [support],” Jones said after the stage in Cedar City. “I get to the bottom of the climb and then I go up it as hard as I can. Our sprinters have a shot to shine here. You might as well take the opportunities.”

Optum took the opportunity and came away with a stage win on Friday. Now, the pressure returns to Jones to finish what he came here to do.

“Top five is the big goal, that’s what I’m shooting for. We’ll see how far it can go from there,” he said.

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Danielson takes charge at Tour of Utah atop Powder Mountain Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:53:39 +0000 Chris Case

Tom Danielson stayed consistent on the Powder Mountain summit finish to win the stage and take the race lead. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Tom Danielson takes command of the Tour of Utah on what he calls “the hardest climb I’ve ever done” at the end of stage 4

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Tom Danielson stayed consistent on the Powder Mountain summit finish to win the stage and take the race lead. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

POWDER MOUNTAIN, Utah (VN) — Tom Danielson doesn’t like the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. He loves it.

The precipitous climbs at altitude found in the Wasatch Range are tailor-made for the Garmin-Sharp rider’s lungs-on-legs physique, as highlighted by his dominance of stage 4 in which he took the victory by 57 seconds and moved into the yellow leader’s jersey.

“I would like to have more races that finish like this! Who doesn’t want to go up a 16 percent climb at 8,000 feet? I don’t know [laughs],” Danielson told VeloNews. “When I was out there, I was thinking this is really bad. It was sort of like Mount Evans, but harder.”

On a day in which the general classification was expected to blow like a powder keg, it erupted on the relentless ascension of Powder Mountain.

Some riders were terrified of its grade, based solely on stories they’d heard. Others were laughing in anticipation of what stood between them and the finish line of stage 4.

Danielson made it look easy, spinning gracefully in and out of the saddle. But it was anything but.

“It was the hardest climb I’ve ever done. Like Mount Washington back east but at 8,000 feet,” Danielson said, standing at the summit of what many have called the hardest climb in Utah. “The tough thing is that, at altitude, guys like Chris [Horner] and I climb a lot out of the saddle. You have to be really efficient because you start using your arms and it takes the oxygen away from your legs.”

For a rider who has had nothing but disappointments across much of the season — illnesses, ailments, and injuries — and whose form was a question mark coming into this week, Danielson proved any doubters wrong. He could win; he was the best climber in the race; he, in fact, should be considered the favorite, and was now the race leader.

How’d he turn it around?

“Do you want the honest answer? I went down to my home in Tucson; I know that Mount Lemmon is a really good place for me,” he said. “It’s kind of redundant in the sense that it’s one climb. It really forces me to work on my weaknesses there. I went down there, I had a lot of friends and family there, my parents came out, I had great support. I got up every single day at 4:30 in the morning because it’s real hot down there, but I knew I needed the heat too, because I knew it was going to be hot out here. And today was hot. I really focused and put in a lot of work, and when I’m happy, I have good form — and I’m very happy.”

On Powder Mountain, any weakness in Danielson’s form was hard to see. He dropped Horner (Lampre-Merida) with more than 5 kilometers to go and steadily drifted up the road. The grind to the summit was methodical, mechanical, and built upon the Tucson training of weeks ago.

“This type of climbing is my forte,” Danielson said. “[But in Tucson] I worked on more power stuff that helps me on this [type of climb]; it helps me with my hips and my glutes, a lot of stuff that helps me produce the same power I can on the steep stuff, but on flatter roads. OK, it was really hard in the end, but all day it was fast and I was able to stay really within myself, which enabled me to have so much left at the end.”

Horner watched him drift away, was joined by Ben Hermans (BMC Racing), and the two labored behind, losing nearly a second for every hundred meters they traveled. Meanwhile, Danielson kept tapping away, his sport director Bingen Fernandez coaxing him on as they crawled up the coarse pavement of the winter resort’s access road.

“On TV [it might have looked like last year’s stage to Snowbird], but it really wasn’t because it was all tailwind,” Horner said. “Danielson was in control the whole time. I just couldn’t get any draft the whole time and, of course, I got popped before the climb eased up so, at altitude you can either ease up and lose a minute, or blow up and lose five.”

Of course, Danielson was the first to admit that his Garmin teammates played a massive role in the effort, and in that control; they were as relentless throughout the stage as he was on Powder Mountain’s pitches late in the stage.

“Ben [King] had a shoulder that kept him up all night, he’s feeling bad, he’s got a saddle sore, and he didn’t even want to start this morning,” Danielson said. “But he was phenomenal today. To Phil [Gaimon], to Gavin [Mannion], to Janier [Acevedo]. Alex [Howes] was amazing in the end. That win was for the team.”

For Gaimon, the effort he put in on the second passage over the North Ogden Divide and through the valley leading to the final climb was about more than just teamwork.

“We knew Tom was the best climber here,” he said. “And I owe Tom a lot, on and off the bike. It was good to finally get a chance to repay him. He helped me get on the team; he worked his ass off for me at Tour de San Luis. I’ve owed him one for a long time. I was glad to cap it off and watch him nail it.”

With a 57-second lead, and what looks to be impeccable form, Danielson is in the driver’s seat for a second consecutive Tour of Utah victory. His team was able to produce such substantial time gaps that it should prove easier to control the race over the next three stages.

Stage 5 looks to be one where sprinters will have their final chance to duel. Stage 6, the Queen Stage, is almost a replica of the stage in which Danielson and Horner dueled for supremacy in 2013; on that day, Horner rode slyly to take the stage win, while Danielson solidified his place in the overall. And, of course, stage 7 will be a repeat of last year’s loop from Park City, through Wolf Creek, over the monstrous Empire Pass, and into Park City — a stage in which Danielson out-climbed nearly everyone except for Francisco Mancebo and Acevedo, who rode for 5-hour Energy and Jamis-Hagens Berman last season.

But Danielson knows it isn’t over until he crosses the line in Park City.

“Cycling is a really humbling sport and I’m too smart to know that there are no challenges around the corner,” he said. “I’m really just going to enjoy this victory; we’ll come up with objectives tomorrow and work on those, and then we’ll get to the other stages, and if we get there OK, then we’ll worry about it then.”

Gaimon, however, has no doubts about his abilities to repeat.

“If you know Tom, you know this [type of climbing] is his gem,” Gaimon said. “He’s great at training; I ride with Tom and I know that no one trains harder than Tom Danielson. I didn’t really question [his form] for a minute. If there’s anything Tom’s good at, it’s going up a 4K, 20 percent whatever the heck that was. No one can touch him on that, probably in the world.”

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Tour of Utah prepares for powder keg at Powder Mountain summit finish Thu, 07 Aug 2014 04:14:35 +0000 Chris Case

Wilco Kelderman, riding in the best young rider's jersey and sitting fourth overall at the Criterium du Dauphine. Photo: Tim De Waele |

At the Tour of Utah, Belkin has Moreno Hofland for the sprints, but Wilco Kelderman for the feared summit of Powder Mountain on stage 4

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Wilco Kelderman, riding in the best young rider's jersey and sitting fourth overall at the Criterium du Dauphine. Photo: Tim De Waele |

TOOELE, Utah (VN) – The Tour of Utah is about to explode.

The mountains, for which the seven-day race is so famous, are looming large. One mountain, in particular: Powder Mountain. Stage 4 will finish atop the climb that’s never been used before at the Utah race, but which has been described as a beast. It will be a powder keg, exploding the general classification and offering the first indication of where the true GC contenders stand.

“I’ve ridden it a few times. I drove up it in the winter once and cars were sliding down it backwards,” said Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare), a Utah native and 2008 overall winner of the race.

Carter Jones (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), a proven climber who won the Tour of the Gila in May, has only heard stories. “I’ve not ridden it but I’ve heard terrifying things,” he said.

The race changes on Thursday.

Thus far, Belkin has had a huge role in shaping the tone and arc of the race. There’s no question that the Dutch squad came to the Tour of Utah to notch up victories

They have two stage wins in three days with their young sprinter Moreno Hofland, who took his second on Wednesday at the Miller Motorsports Park to go with his victory in Cedar City on stage 1.

But Thursday will see no lead-out trains, echelons, or bike throws, at least not at the finish. Hofland will, likely, be off the back. Belkin has a man in waiting for the Powder Mountain summit finish.

Wilco Kelderman comes to Utah highly touted, but a bit off the radar. Only 23, the Dutchman rode to an impressive seventh overall at the Giro d’Italia in May, followed by a fourth place on GC at the Critérium du Dauphiné in late June (while taking the best young rider competition), and looks ahead to compete at his second grand tour of the year at the Vuelta a España in late August.

“This is for preparation for the Vuelta. So we’ve been here already two and a half weeks. We’ll see [Thursday] how good I am,” Kelderman said. “I hope to do a good GC but I’m not now at the top level. It’s also a little bit of training. I hope to be good and fight for a stage win.”

The first of three KOMs will come on the slopes of the North Ogden Divide, a 5km climb with an average 10-percent gradient. The race then circumnavigates Pineview Reservoir as it passes under the ski slopes of Snowbasin and Wolf Mountain. After passing through the city of Ogden, it again climbs the North Ogden Divide.

The new addition to the Tour ascends over 3,000 feet in six miles, averaging 11 percent and hitting 20 percent at its steepest. To make matters worse, the road lacks switchbacks, forcing riders to stare down the climb with every crank of their pedals. Kelderman isn’t afraid.

“I prefer the climbs that are gradual. But I did the Giro and there are a lot of steep climbs,” he said.

His team has done plenty of work on the front of the peloton already, but this, too, doesn’t phase the Dutchman.

“I like that it’s not always me,” he said. “I like to ride for another guy. It’s good for the team spirit and I don’t need all the guys for myself [on the climbs], so I like it.”

On stage 4, it will be every man for himself, as the road tilts skyward, to the first mountaintop finish of the week.

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A tale of two breakaway riders, as Schar and Rosskopf go their separate ways Wed, 06 Aug 2014 03:27:07 +0000 Chris Case

BMC Racing's Michael Schär (left) saw a more than four-minute lead over the top of the last climb – 38km from the finish – reduced to seconds inside the final kilometer of the 210km race. Hincapie rider Joey Rosskopf (right) was caught 3km from the finish. Photo by Casey B. Gibson.

After stage 2 of the Tour of Utah, breakaway companions Michael Schär and Joey Rosskopf were on opposite ends of the spectrum between

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BMC Racing's Michael Schär (left) saw a more than four-minute lead over the top of the last climb – 38km from the finish – reduced to seconds inside the final kilometer of the 210km race. Hincapie rider Joey Rosskopf (right) was caught 3km from the finish. Photo by Casey B. Gibson.

TORREY, Utah (VN) – First he was going to do it; it was a sure thing. A well-deserved win was virtually in the bag for BMC Racing’s Michael Schär as he crested Boulder Mountain with nearly a five-minute lead after dropping his break mate, Hincapie rider Joey Rosskopf.

“On top of the climb I felt very good,” Schär said.

Then, the sure thing — it wasn’t. What was this? He wasn’t pedaling. He’s cramping; he’s definitely struggling. He’s on the descent, but he isn’t pedaling. He’s losing huge chunks of time.

“Everywhere cramping, I couldn’t even pedal anymore!” Schär told VeloNews after the stage. “It was exactly at 15km to go when I knew [I was really hurting]. I was too tired to see 15 and 10. I couldn’t see the difference anymore. Then I saw 10 and I thought, ‘F—ck, it has to be five!’ But it was 10 and then I really realized I have to concentrate.”

Next it was touch and go. Rosskopf was closing fast. His speed seemed to be double that of the tall, lanky Swiss rider on the descent. Rosskopf was going to do it. His career will be changed, people said. He’s going to fly past Schär and take a huge win with that type of speed.

Then, suddenly, the peloton was on Rosskopf. The crowds at the finish line sighed with disappointment. Could the peloton now close it down and time the catch of Schär to perfection? It was too close to call.

The last corner came at one kilometer to go.

Will he or won’t he? Could he or can’t he? The gathered soigneurs and race staff watching the television monitors at the finish line all yelled at the screen, anxiously making their predictions: “He’ll get caught!” “He’s going to make it!” The view on screen pulled back, the gap from Schär to the charging peloton was… just enough.

Meekly, Schär raised his arms, and hours of agony turned into instant ecstasy.

“I was pretty confident on top of [Boulder Mountain], but you never know, you never get it, until you get it. Then, with 500 meters to go I had another cramp. I thought, ‘This can’t be true now.’ They [caught] me on the line but I think, sometimes, there is somebody above us who looks out for us.”

Schär held on to the slimmest of winning margins, holding off a charging reduced field to win after 130 undulating miles through the iconic Hell’s Backbone region of Utah, along Highway 12 from Panguitch to Torrey.

After dropping off the pace on the climb to Boulder Mountain — “Him on a bad day is as good as me on most days on the climbs,” Rosskopf said — the young Hincapie rider pulled back the cramping Swiss rider on the descent, coming within 25 seconds before he was finally caught with just 3km to go.

The chasm of emotion between victory and defeat was as wide as the Escalante Canyon that cut through the surrounding sandstone landscape.

“If you never try, you never win. A rider like me, I’m not a sprinter, I’m not a super climber,” Schär said. “I have to win my races in breakaways. And today was an especially hard breakaway because 130 miles is a long way, especially with a lot of ups and downs. It was not an easy day.”

Schär is tall, lanky, a former national champion of Switzerland, a seasoned veteran of the WorldTour. Rosskopf is thicker, shorter, a young rider on a young development squad, just beginning his rise through the domestic racing scene.

Schär finished the Tour de France less than two weeks ago. The form was, he said, “very good.”

Rosskopf (Hincapie Development Team), 24, just finished the Cascade Cycling Classic. His form was also good – he was sixth in the prologue, fourth in the time trial, fourth in the circuit race, and fourth overall – but the measuring stick was smaller than the world’s biggest race.

The two are on opposite ends of the cycling career spectrum. After stage 2 of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, they were also on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, of agony and ecstasy.

“I went to bed yesterday and looked at the route and said, ‘This is going to be my day.’ But the orginal plan was to attack over the last climb, not at kilometer zero [laughs],” Schär said.

On the other side of the coin, Rosskopf began his day just hoping to do some work for the team, not himself.

“I was really hoping that [KOM leader and teammate] Robin Carpenter was going to end up in the move with me,” he said. “But that didn’t happen so I kind of just ended up taking the KOM points. I got the first [KOM] hoping he was going to maybe bridge up. But I thought I ought to get something out of the move.”

Eventually, after the two shed their breakmates, they were united in their attempt to outlast the peloton.

But their emotions after the stage were anything but parallel.

“It was the top, the [hardest day of my career], I think,” Schär said. “It was a really nice win because it was so long, so hard.”

For Rosskopf, what began as work for the team ended in personal defeat.

“It would have been career-changing. I think second on the stage would have been career-changing. But I wasn’t so concerned with whether I was catching Schär because there was only so much I could do – just to go as fast as possible. I was just trying to stay away from the field. I made it to 3km to go, which was heartbreaking. I did what I could.”

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Tour of Utah favorite Danielson still seeking 2014 success Tue, 05 Aug 2014 13:42:12 +0000 Chris Case

Tom Danielson has yet to turn in a top result this season. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The Garmin-Sharp rider comes into Utah as the favorite, but where’s the evidence?

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Tom Danielson has yet to turn in a top result this season. Photo: Tim De Waele |

CEDAR CITY, Utah (VN) — Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) is one of the favorites to win the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. Maybe the favorite.

He won here last year, and he has shown that he excels at the type of steep climbing at altitude that the race provides over seven grueling stages.

But in this game of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, Danielson has a lot to prove. He took the first steps on Monday during stage 1 in Cedar City, Utah.

“I’m really happy with how I’ve arrived here. I’m super pumped and I love racing in Utah. Today I felt really good,” Danielson told Velo just after stage 1. “It wasn’t a stage where we really saw how everybody is, but it definitely takes a bit out of you when you’re riding for five hours at 10,000 feet. You could see a lot of guys hurting today.”

After taking the win at the Tour of Utah last year, Danielson, 35, took third at the USA Pro Challenge just weeks later.

In 2014, however, he has struggled across the entire season. The highlight came in May when he was third on the Mountain High summit finish at the Amgen Tour of California. Still, he finished 14th overall.

He suffered a string of DNFs in the first half of the year, including the Volta a Catalunya, in March, and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, in April. He was able to finish the Tour de Romandie in May, but remained anonymous throughout. Then, in June, he failed to finish the Tour de Suisse, and he was not selected for the Tour de France, a race where he finished eighth in 2011.

His teammates have been as uncertain of where Danielson is as anyone.

“We don’t know what kind of condition Tom’s in. We have faith in him, but we don’t know — he hasn’t raced in a while,” said teammate Alex Howes, who just wrapped up his first Tour de France campaign eight days ago.

Danielson, on the other hand, isn’t worried.

“My form, in a nutshell, is really good,” he said just after stage 1. “I’ve been around for a while, I know how to train, I know what I need to do. You know, I’ve done lots of grand tours, I’ve got all my power files so I know what to do. Ironically, I was in the best shape of my life in the beginning of the year and just had some unfortunate incidents, injuries and sickness and stuff, that just derailed it. That’s enough excuses for now.”

Though Garmin brings, arguably, the strongest team to support its GC leader, there is the conspicuous absence of Australian Lachlan Morton, a stage winner and overall leader for a day at the 2013 edition of the Utah race. It leaves the team with only seven riders on its roster.

Morton, 22, has struggled with visa issues in 2014, missing the Tour of California. He will also miss the USA Pro Challenge later this month.

“We’re definitely going to miss him here, and Utah’s going to miss him, because not only is he a ‘hitter,’ but he’s a character,” Howes said.

Still, Howes and Ben King, also fresh from his first Tour, bring major firepower. Danielson isn’t worried about how their form will be coming off of three hectic, harsh weeks across France.

“Ben has one of the biggest engines in the sport. I really want to see Ben make it to that last selection of guys — I think he’s capable of doing that. He rode a great Tour de France and it’s normal [to struggle that first day back],” Danielson said. “You take a week off and you come to altitude, you know, you’re gonna suffer. Everybody’s suffering … guys are talking and trying to mess with one another, but you know if we go 10 more watts or higher, there’s 20 guys left. Ben’s fine. Obviously he was suffering today, but a big engine like that needs a big kick start. Today was it and he’s just going to get better all week.”

Howes, known for his relaxed demeanor as much as his big engine, found his form late in France after struggling in the second week. He noted that with a kilometer and a half to go on the final stage in Paris, he was sitting on the wheel of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), the eventual stage winner.

“I’m more or less recovered. I was kind of … lucky, I guess, to be coming up in the last week,” Howes said before the stage. “I got pretty sick in the second week … I had the [respiratory] stuff that everybody had. But I was on the up-and-up — I hit rock bottom in the second week, was rebounding, and I’ve been able to follow that trend upward. We’ll see how that translates in Utah. Could be good, could be really bad. Might not finish today. Could win [laughs].”

For the record, he finished ninth on the stage. King did struggle, sitting at the back of the peloton as it made three finishing circuits in Cedar City. He eventually fell off the pace, finishing 2:32 down on stage winner Moreno Hofland (Belkin).

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Danielson targets repeat performance at Tour of Utah Mon, 04 Aug 2014 13:17:00 +0000 Chris Case

Tom Danielson rode to victory at the 2013 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

One year after winning the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, 36-year-old American Tom Danielson is back to defend his title

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Tom Danielson rode to victory at the 2013 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

CEDAR CITY, Utah (VN) — Any race that tackles 753.8 miles and 57,863 feet of elevation gain in seven stages will be difficult to win. You need the legs. You need the team. The question is, who will it be?

Could it be a UCI WorldTour rider fresh off the Tour de France, like Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida)? A rider looking to fine-tune his form before heading to the Vuelta a España, which starts August 23, like Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)? Or maybe it will be someone who comes out from the shadows of the domestic professional scene and steals the show.

The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, slated for August 4-10, is the longest stage race in North America in 2014. And, arguably, it boasts the deepest field. Six WorldTour teams have made the trip to Utah, including BMC, Trek Factory Racing, Belkin, Lampre, Garmin-Sharp, and Cannondale, among a field of 16 total teams.

For the first time, three grand tour champions will be included among the 128 starters. Reigning Vuelta a España champion Horner returns to the Tour of Utah after a second-place finish a year ago. Joining Horner are two-time Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso (Cannondale) and 2011 Tour de France champion Evans.

Theirs to lose

There is no WorldTour team that views the North American swing of UCI races — the Tour of Utah, USA Pro Challenge, and the Tour of Alberta — the way the U.S.-registered Garmin squad does. The Pro Challenge may be its ultimate focus, as Garmin has had a rider on the overall podium all three years the race has been in existence, including an overall victory with Christian Vande Velde in 2012, but Utah isn’t far behind.

Last year, Garmin took the overall win with Tom Danielson, with young Australian Lachlan Morton also taking an epic stage win that put him into the leader’s yellow jersey for a time.

The team also boasts last year’s third-place finisher, Colombian climbing sensation Janier Acevedo, who rode for Jamis-Hagens Berman in 2013. A world-class climber, the 29-year-old Acevedo has finished on the podium at the Amgen Tour of California and in the top 10 at the Silver City Tour of the Gila, the Tour de San Luis, and the Tour de Suisse. In his first season at the WorldTour level, Acevedo made his Tour de France debut last month but was forced to abandon the race after 13 stages.

Though Morton has not made the trip back to Utah, Danielson and Acevedo return this year in Garmin colors, bringing perhaps the deepest GC squad in the race, with the American slated as its GC leader.

“The Tour of Utah is a really phenomenal race, and we don’t get too many opportunities to race with so many mountaintop finishes, so steep, at altitude like this,” Danielson said. “You can’t pass up an opportunity like this.”

When asked about the difficulty of the course this year, one that is a day longer and features some new, very tough climbs, Danielson reveled in the prospect. He has had some of his finest results on courses that contain steep climbs at altitude, such as the precipitous climb of Empire Pass on stage 7, now a hallmark of the Utah race.

“All of us like hard race courses. The more selective [it is], the better the racing. I’m particularly excited about the last three mountain stages,” he said. “I’m really interested to see this Powder Mountain stage — it sounds like it’s quite nasty. We don’t get too many opportunities to race a 15 percent climb at altitude … only at the Tour of Utah.”

After taking the win at the Tour of Utah last year, Danielson, 35, took third at the USA Pro Challenge but has struggled in 2014. He was third on the Mountain High summit finish at the Tour of California in May, but eventually finished 14th overall. He did not finish the Volta a Catalunya in March, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in April, or the Tour de Suisse in June, and he was not selected for the Tour de France, a race in which he finished eighth in 2011.

Still, Danielson comes with the strongest team behind him. Ben King and Alex Howes finished the Tour de France a little more than a week ago — it was the first appearance by either American — and the pair will be joined by Acevedo, himself a GC threat, as well as Thomas Dekker, Phil Gaimon, and Gavin Mannion.

King and Howes left the Tour unscathed by the respiratory infections that plagued so many riders and will spearhead Danielson’s title defense.

“Those guys have big engines,” said Danielson. “They’re [excited] to be finished with their first Tour de France — you can just see it in their eyes being back in America looking at burritos and hamburgers. They’re on cloud nine — we have a really strong team and those guys will play a big part of it.”

The challengers

Horner, who finished second in Utah last year, is currently experiencing one of the most exhilarating seasons — for good and bad — in his long career. After an April training accident in Italy left him concussed and with broken ribs, he forged ahead with a solid ride at the Tour in July, finishing 17th. Still suffering from the effects of a bronchial infection that he picked up in France, he’s back in Utah to prepare for his Vuelta title defense. It’s a method he perfected last year, riding impressively to second after knee surgery hampered his training, and then went on to great success in Spain.

So how does the Tour of Utah fit into his plans to take a second grand tour victory at the age of 43? Horner made it clear that the Vuelta is his first priority. Ever the prognosticator, Horner saw three distinct scenarios.

“If I stay sick, I’ll shut it down and go home,” he said. “If I feel healthy but the legs aren’t quite recovered from the Tour, then I’ll continue, but I’ll drop off the leaders. If the form from the Tour — because I went into the Tour with great form, there’s no doubt about it, I just got sick — if the sickness clears and the legs I think I have are there, then I’ll go for the win. It’s as simple as … I could be driving home tomorrow or I could be going for the win.”

Another factor that could hurt Horner’s chances is the strength and familiarity he has with his team. Horner had never met any of his Lampre teammates for the Utah race until a few days ago when he arrived in town.

There are two other grand tour winners among the field gathered in Cedar City. Neither Evans or Basso, however, see themselves as a favorite.

A two-time winner of the Giro d’Italia, the 36-year-old Basso is in the twilight of a long and sometimes controversial career that saw him sidelined for the 2008 season for an anti-doping violation. Prior to his suspension, he twice finished on the podium at the Tour de France behind Lance Armstrong. Since his return in 2009, he’s been in the top-five overall at the Giro d’Italia three times, including an overall win in 2010.

In recent years, however, Basso hasn’t been very prolific. His last Tour de France was in 2012 and he finished 25th. This year he quietly placed 15th at the Giro, his last race before Utah.

“Well, I train well in these last months,” Basso said. “But honestly, it’s difficult to make a prediction because it’s a little surprise [to me], this altitude, the course is really hard. But what I want to do is try to stay in the front and see, day by day. If the feeling is not super for the overall, I just go less with the ambition and try to go for a good stage. But it all helps to get the good from for the Pro Challenge.”

Nevertheless, Basso admitted the race is a high priority for the team’s American sponsor Cannondale, so the pressure to perform will play a role.

“I want to do well in this race. Cannondale is really happy for this race, and they want us to go well in this race,” he said.

Likewise, Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion, played down his chances for victory, instead looking ahead to future races as his main priority.

“I don’t quite see myself as a favorite,” the Australian said. “I came here well trained, focused, motivated to do well, but I’m here to get ready for the Vuelta. But I like to race at the front; results from year’s gone by show that.”

Dark horses

In Matthew Busche, Trek has a strong climber capable of a top result. The biggest question around Busche will be how well he’s recovered from his first Tour de France. The Wisconsin native and 2011 national road champion crashed several times in July, and also rode in several breakaways.

“There are definitely moments where I’ve been wondering what the heck I’m doing here, thinking, ‘I don’t deserve to be here. Why am I turning myself inside out to just try to hang on? How are these guys so much better than me?’” Busche told Velo.

Carter Jones (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) has steadily risen through the ranks of the Continental racing scene to become a favorite at any race that involves abundant climbing. Last year, as a member of Bissell, he won the mountains classification at the Tour of California and was eighth overall at both the Tour of the Gila and the Tour of Utah. He climbed to first overall on the final stage of the Gila in 2014.

Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) is a rising star of the WorldTour and another rider who has garnered his best results in races with ample climbing. His 2014 season has seen him compete among the world’s best, taking seventh overall at the Giro d’Italia and then rise to fourth overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné on his way to winning the best young rider classification.

Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare) has some unfinished business with the Utah race, having lost his overall podium position on the final day of racing in 2013.

“I’m definitely champing at the bit to get on that final podium. I got a stage podium last year, but we’re definitely looking to up that this year,” Euser said.

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Organizers detail Pro Challenge route, including mountaintop finish at Monarch Tue, 06 May 2014 15:31:48 +0000 Chris Case

2014 USA Pro Challenge: Stage 2 profile

Organizers reveal the 2014 route, which includes the familiar Vail Pass Time Trial and a challenging dirt route over Kebler Pass

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2014 USA Pro Challenge: Stage 2 profile

For the first time in the four-year history of the USA Pro Challenge, a mountaintop finish will be included in the 2014 route. Race organizers on Tuesday revealed further details of the race’s six road stages and one time trial, including a scenic dirt ascent of Kebler Pass on the race’s second day and a challenging circuit race in Colorado Springs.

“Every year we strive to create a route that will challenge the riders in new ways, give spectators more opportunities to see some of the toughest athletes in the world and highlight new parts of Colorado,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Challenge. “The mountains are such a big part of the USA Pro Challenge and we always have incredibly enthusiastic fans packing the summits, so we’re adding a new test for the riders this year and a new viewing opportunity for our dedicated fans with the stage 3 mountaintop finish on Monarch Mountain.”

The overall start of the 550-mile USA Pro Challenge will return to the familiar surroundings of Aspen, Colorado, with a circuit race in the mountain town. The 2014 edition will tackle the same circuit race between Aspen and nearby Snowmass that saw Peter Sagan take victory in 2013.

On Tuesday, August 19, stage 2 will start in Aspen and work its way to Mount Crested Butte. After passing through the Roaring Fork Valley, through the sprint towns of Basalt and Carbondale, the race will tackle the 8,700-foot McClure Pass. A short descent will bring the race to Gunnison County Road 12, a 20-mile roller coaster that changes between pavement and dirt, and tops out at 9,900 feet on Kebler Pass. A technical descent into Crested Butte will bring the race back to familiar terrain. As in 2011 and 2012, the race will finish with a sprint through downtown Crested Butte and the steep finishing climb up to Mount Crested Butte.

On August 20, stage 3 will start in Gunnison and head east for 35 miles before tackling the 11,300-foot Monarch Pass. The riders will then descend the eastern slope of the pass and complete two, nine-mile loops through Salida and the surrounding countryside. Then they will ascend 20 miles back toward Monarch Pass to the finish at the 10,800-foot Monarch Mountain ski area.

On August 21, Colorado Springs will play host to a challenging circuit race. After a ceremonial start at The Broadmoor hotel, the race will head into the city for four laps around a 16-mile circuit. With a climb through the Garden of the Gods, Mesa Road, and the infamous Ridge Road, which hits grades of nearly 17 percent, the route will be a challenge.

On August 22, Woodland Park will host the race for the first time, with the start of stage 5. The first 80 miles will head west and then north through some of the most picturesque terrain in Colorado. The action begins in Fairplay with the long grind up the 11,500-foot Hoosier Pass, the highest point in the race. A descent into Breckenridge follows before a repeat of last year’s challenging final miles up Moonstone Road and into downtown Breckenridge.

On August 23, the famous Vail Pass Time Trial will return, starting in the ski village and finishing 10 miles up Vail Pass.

On August 24, the race returns to the site of some of the largest crowds in USA Pro Challenge history with a stage between Boulder, Golden, and Denver. Leaving Boulder on Colorado Highway 93, the riders will face several hilly and windswept miles as they head toward Golden. Through Golden, the riders will tackle the four-mile climb of Lookout Mountain. After a quick pass back through Golden, the race will head to Denver for three-and-a-half laps of an abbreviated version of last year’s circuit.

“I am really happy to see the 2014 edition of the USA Pro Challenge return to my hometown of Boulder,” said BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney, a previous winner of the final-stage time trial in Denver. “The energy at the finish two years ago was unreal, and it is always special to race near home. This is one of my favorite races of the year and I hope to be able to participate since I missed it last year.”

The USA Pro Challenge runs August 18-24.

2014 USA Pro Challenge

Stage 1: Monday, Aug. 18 — Aspen Circuit Race
Stage 2: Tuesday, Aug. 19 — Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte
Stage 3: Wednesday, Aug. 20 — Gunnison to Monarch Mountain (mountaintop finish)
Stage 4: Thursday, Aug. 21 — Colorado Springs Circuit Race
Stage 5: Friday, Aug. 22 — Woodland Park to Breckenridge
Stage 6: Saturday, Aug. 23 — Vail Individual Time Trial
Stage 7: Sunday, Aug. 24 — Boulder to Denver

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A Case for Suffering: The iron lollipop Thu, 16 Jan 2014 10:00:29 +0000 Chris Case

Chris Case (Boulder Cycle Sport) leads contributing tech reporter Spencer Powlison (Evol Elite Racing) during the elite national championship race. Case would go on to finish 23rd, with Powlison trailing in 31st place. Last week, the two debated whether or not masters racers should also race in the elite field. Photo: Brad Kaminski |

There’s a swelling, pounding, throbbing block of meat inside my skull. Am I going to die, or is this just cyclocross?

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Chris Case (Boulder Cycle Sport) leads contributing tech reporter Spencer Powlison (Evol Elite Racing) during the elite national championship race. Case would go on to finish 23rd, with Powlison trailing in 31st place. Last week, the two debated whether or not masters racers should also race in the elite field. Photo: Brad Kaminski |

The blood leaches from the folds of my palate, collecting at the rear of the throat. Have I just licked a lollipop made from fine iron shards?

The searing fire of rapidly repeated hot inhalations brings lashes upon the lungs. There’s a swelling, pounding, throbbing block of meat inside my skull. Am I going to die, or is this just cyclocross?

Yup, this is just cyclocross.

This … is torture.

Hard is the only way I know how to race ’cross — I’m not one to look for a beer hand-up or a costume contest victory. Even if you’re not so serious, you know the drill. White heat goes into your temples, out the stem of your brain, down your spine, into you psoas, right through to your phalanges … if you’re doing it right.

But, first, there’s the anxiety of it all.

“Thirty seconds to start.”

Nice, deep breaths. Nice, deep breathes. Rise to the saddle, release the brakes, open the eyes, and the lungs, and be free.


An uncoiling spool of a launching harpoon, I’m heaved through space by fury, click-click-clicking through the gearbox powered solely by the Ferrari in my mind. How the brain absorbs all that information — tires, elbows, dirt, brake noise, butt cheeks, corners, knees, cheers — is impossible to know, but a miracle that most often plays out without catastrophe. I brake, I turn, I choose a line and part the seas, I shift and churn, and the group falls into some semblance of harmony. There’s the sheer chaos; then there’s symbiotic discipline. The two whirl together like the twisted chromosomes of ’cross.

Now I must settle, assess the damage I’ve done — or that has been done to me — in the first three minutes of violence. Still, no rest for the weary.

The noise in Boulder for the national championships never stopped. Neither did the pain. With my primary race out of the way on Saturday (which came with some copper-colored hardware), the elite race was for the experience, the sheer joy of pain, fury, and sound. That’s right, I paid good money to thrash myself inside a chamber of clatter.

There were moments when I was on the verge of surrendering; they were as fleeting as my chances of victory. Around every corner, it wasn’t just cheers that kept me sifting for oxygen in the dusty air. It was my very name — “Goooooo Chris!” — echoing through the cavities of my mind, coming to me in flashes of recognition through the raucous din of a community of cyclists. All of Boulder was frenzied, and the energy gushed through my cells. People were ferociously cheering for little old me. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Amidst such chaos, I hadn’t the time to feel. Well, I was feeling strong, so I wasn’t feeling much. For those who didn’t have the legs, or the heart, or the fire, they were likely in a loud cauldron of hurt.

The former, I pressed on, raging and ragged.

Bleary eyed and frothing on the course’s longest climb, I had barely a moment to collect myself before slicing down a hard-pack, off-camber, rutted slope, precarious under the best of mental conditions. But here I was — behind and ahead of like-minded rivals — slurping through a thin straw for a teaspoon of focus. It was all just flashes.

Rattling down. Left turn, easy on the accelerator up the chalky slick incline, then everything into the pedals over a wicked ramp. Again, up a staircase made for giants, into a plunge on rubble and ruts.

But, really, the details of the course, the topography and the technicality, were irrelevant. I was wide open for as long as my frazzled body would allow it. And then I went some more. Then again. Then one final time, until. …

We came around the corner into the start/finish straight, ready to charge into the gale winds scratching our skin. But we saw waving arms and had to screech to a halt.

The officials waved me, and two fellow competitors, aside. In a battle for the top 25, we couldn’t quite believe we were being pulled off course with two laps to go. Damn that Jeremy Powers; he’s too fast today.

Suddenly, calm. The cheering churned on, but no longer for me. I noticed my heaving chest, felt my face again, looked around and saw thousands of rabid fans loving excitement, skill, power, finesse.

And then the pain was present. Searing. Hot. Ferrous. But a tad sweet, too.

Editor’s note: Velo managing editor Chris Case has spent enough time racing parking lot criteriums to know there are far more enjoyable ways to spend time racing and riding a bike. In his quest to find pain and pleasure in equal measure, he has sought out the most unique, challenging, and captivating competitions to test his mind, body, and equipment. Follow along with his experiment to ride the best and most difficult courses, the iconic and the emerging, the most punishing and most promising, on- and off-road. Live vicariously through him, poke fun at him, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @leicacase. Questions or concerns for his well-being? Send him a note at

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Elle Anderson dreams of the top podium step in Boulder Thu, 09 Jan 2014 17:48:01 +0000 Chris Case

Elle Anderson came out of Kerstperiode on the rise and is aiming for the front of the elite women's race at U.S. nationals on Sunday. Photo: Dan Seaton |

Cal Giant rider is aiming for the front of the elite women's race at U.S. nationals, even if it means taking on Katie Compton

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Elle Anderson came out of Kerstperiode on the rise and is aiming for the front of the elite women's race at U.S. nationals on Sunday. Photo: Dan Seaton |

BOULDER, Colo. (VN) — Elle Anderson (Cal Giant-Specialized) is excited to be back from Belgium, and even more excited to toe the line at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championship on Sunday in Boulder.

She learned a lot at her first EuroCrossCamp. It was, in fact, her first trip to Europe to race her bike, and she finished the hectic holiday block of races, known as the Kerstperiode, with the second strongest result among all Americans (after Katie Compton’s dominating World Cup performances) with a third place at the Superprestige round in Diegem behind Belgian champ Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) and Italian champ Eva Lechner (Colnago Suditrol).

But she missed the sunshine.

“It’s just the sunshine. I got back to San Francisco and went on my first ride after I got off the plane and it was just this sunny, warm California day. It was incredible; I just didn’t know how much I missed the sun,” she said.

Reinvigorated by the radiant light, she turns her energy and enthusiasm toward the race for the elite Stars-and-Stripes jersey; this year she comes into the race as a five-star favorite to take one of the spots on the podium. Maybe not the top step, but in her breakout season, she has confirmed that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Strong out of the gates

Coming into the 2013-14 season, no American had beaten nine-time national champion Compton since 2006. Anderson’s was a name that few people had heard, and suddenly she was beating a legend.

The 25-year-old Vermont native took the domestic cyclocross scene by storm in September, winning four consecutive races, including both days of the Trek Cyclocross Collective Cup, and two more at the Gran Prix of Gloucester, besting top riders such as Helen Wyman (Kona), Gabriella Durrin (Rapha-Focus), and Cal Giant teammate Meredith Miller.

Then came the Providence Cyclocross Festival. Compton was coming off lackluster fall training and illness. Katie wasn’t the old Katie, many were whispering. Katerina Nash (Luna) was also in town — the Czech native and Dutch phenom Marianne Vos were the only two racers to have beaten Compton on U.S. soil since 2006 — and took victory on both days. But it was Anderson who won the battle for best shock value, beating Compton in a sprint on day one. She was officially on fire, and had quickly established herself as the breakthrough rider of the season.

So, it’s only natural that people are expecting big things from Anderson, who works for Strava during the week, and crushes in ’cross on the weekends.

“This is only my third nationals — I’ve only focused on cyclocross for three years and made it this far in the season. I’m more excited for this year than the previous two years. I think, in large part, that’s because I’ve just come off the big block of racing in Europe. For the people that stay in the U.S. it can be pretty challenging because usually there’s not that many races going on,” she said. “It was dark and cold where I was, too, but I just skipped all the holidays and did a bunch of races and I’m so fired up after Belgium that nationals just gets me that much more excited.”

From Belgium to Boulder

While some racers come off the Kerstperiode depleted or suffering from illness, Anderson only got stronger.

“I came back feeling pretty strong. In the five races I did in Belgium, I really ramped up. The first race was the hardest, but by the last two I was feeling better than I had for the first three. So that was a cool position to be in,” she said.

After a period of adjustment — to the shift in time and culture — Anderson was able to absorb knowledge from head coach Geoff Proctor and world champion Sven Nys, who stopped by to talk to the camp participants for an hour. Anderson was one of two females, along with Bicycle Bluebook-Rock Lobster’s Courtenay McFadden, to be invited to EuroCrossCamp, and the first since the camp’s inaugural edition 10 years ago.

“I was on this accelerated learning curve, especially because I haven’t raced a lot of mud this year. So, by the last two races, I was saying to myself, ‘Yeah, most days I could do this. This is something that I’m already learning quick,’” she said.

Five hard races were well worth the lack of sunshine, according to Anderson.

“As long as I took a break after that block to absorb all that fitness, then I’d really be conditioned well for nationals. So, it’s pretty great timing and it does work out well,” she said.

Her last trip to Boulder did not go as planned. Suffering from a cold, it was her technical skills that seemed to let her down, more than her engine. In fact, at the Boulder Cup in October, at the same Valmont Bike Park that is hosting nationals (though the course is configured differently), she crashed hard early in the race, abandoning soon after. It was a disappointing weekend, but one she said was nearly forgotten.

“I’ve kind of forgotten about [the crash]; it was a long time ago. This will be my third time racing at Valmont; I also raced there in 2012. So, I’ve had some positive and not-so-positive experiences to draw from and it all kind of comes out in the wash,” she said.

Can she do it again?

Anderson beat Compton this season. But can she do it again?

“Having just finished racing against [Katie] in Europe, it was inspiring and humbling just racing at that level,” said Anderson. “But seeing Katie Compton be so dominant over there … I was so psyched for her wins because it’s really fun just to see that in person. It’s setting up for an exciting nationals. I really like when Katie comes back to race in the U.S. and everyone else brings their ‘A’ game to the nationals championships. It’s going to be a tough race; I don’t know how it will work out, but I’m really excited.”

If Compton races up to her potential — or even slightly below it — she will become a 10-time national champion. But the crop of contenders for the next two steps on the podium is healthy, including Anderson and Miller, Crystal Anthony (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Kaitlin Antonneau (, Arley Kemmerer (Twenty20), Nicole Duke (Marin-Spy), Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill-Seven), and Georgia Gould (Luna).

“In my mind, when I visualize it, I really just want to stay at the front of the race. If that means that Katie Compton’s at the front of the race, I would love to be there, battling it out for the top spot on the podium. That’s really what racing is all about, and especially at a national championships,” said Anderson. “In my dreams, of course that top step is the one that I want to be on. That’s the best part of nationals: it’s such a coveted spot that it’s really fun just to show up on the start line and think of all the possibilities and just go for it.”

One of Anderson’s stated goals at the start of the season was a top-five finish at nationals. While she may have that tucked in the back of her mind, when she toes the line on Sunday, Anderson dreams of gold.

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Photo Essay: The keys to the cyclocross nationals course in Boulder Wed, 08 Jan 2014 10:00:46 +0000 Chris Case

Former masters world championship medalist Chris Case examines the key portions of the U.S. nationals course at Valmont Bike Park

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Amgen Tour of California announces 2014 host cities, two mountaintop finishes Tue, 05 Nov 2013 19:30:24 +0000 Chris Case

The Amgen Tour of California will return to Mount Diablo, site of Leopold Konig's stage win, in 2014. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Mount Diablo, Mountain High to see mountaintop finales before finish in Thousand Oaks

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The Amgen Tour of California will return to Mount Diablo, site of Leopold Konig's stage win, in 2014. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

The Amgen Tour of California will return to Sacramento for the start of the ninth edition of the race, AEG, presenter of the race, announced on Tuesday.

The eight-day stage race will traverse more than 700 miles along a route traveling north-to-south from May 11-18, 2014, traveling through 11 host communities, including Folsom, San Jose, Monterey, Cambria, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Mountain High, Pasadena, and Thousand Oaks, as well as Mount Diablo.

Folsom, Cambria, Pismo Beach, and Mountain High are all first-time host cities.

“We strive to raise the bar each year to present an Amgen Tour of California that not only continues to attract and challenge the world’s top cyclists, but also fittingly features and promotes California’s unique sights and striking scenery,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the Amgen Tour of California and senior vice president of AEG Sports, in a press release. “We’re confident our worldwide audience will enjoy everything next year’s race has to offer — from epic climbs to rolling hills and thrilling finishes; it’s a testament to California’s iconic terrain.”

Stage 1 will begin and finish in the state’s capital, which previously hosted the prologue in 2009 as well as stage finishes in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011.

An individual time trial is on tap for stage 2 in nearby Folsom.

For stage 3, the peloton will return to San Jose, the only city to have participated in all nine editions of the race. Leaving the city, the field will travel north, gaining in elevation all the way to a summit finish atop Mount Diablo.

Stage 4 will begin in Monterey, then travel some 100 miles south to finish in the seaside village of Cambria.

Stage 5 will roll out from Pismo Beach, near the city’s sand dunes, continuing south before a finish in Santa Barbara.

Santa Clarita will host the start of stage 6, which will culminate in a second mountaintop finish, in Mountain High.

The peloton will return to Santa Clarita for the start of stage 7, before finishing in Pasadena.

The final stage of the Amgen Tour will start and finish in Thousand Oaks, home to the title sponsor, which previously hosted finishes in 2010 and 2011.

Amgen returns as the race’s title sponsor for the ninth consecutive year. The race often draws some of the world’s top teams and riders as they look to hone their form for the Tour de France. American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) won the weeklong race in 2013, his first major stage-race win as a professional.

Final route details have yet to be announced.

2014 Amgen Tour of California:
Sunday May 11: Stage 1, Sacramento
Monday May 12: Stage 2, Folsom (ITT)
Tuesday May 13: Stage 3, San Jose to Mount Diablo
Wednesday May 14: Stage 4, Monterey to Cambria
Thursday May 15: Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara
Friday May 16: Santa Clarita to Mountain High
Saturday May 17: Santa Clarita to Pasadena
Sunday May 18: Thousand Oaks

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Fan-sourced stage, mountaintop finish highlight 2014 USA Pro Challenge Mon, 04 Nov 2013 13:45:57 +0000 Chris Case

In 2011, the USA Pro Challenge included a trip over Monarch Pass in the first stage. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Organizers select host cities and unveil fan-sourced route selection for final stage

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In 2011, the USA Pro Challenge included a trip over Monarch Pass in the first stage. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

For the first time in the history of the USA Pro Challenge, a mountaintop finish will be included in the 2014 route. Race organizers today unveiled eight of the host cities for the race’s fourth edition, including Monarch Mountain, at 11,960 feet, the finish site of stage 3. The race will run August 18 to 24, 2014, and include six road stages and one time trial stage, in Vail.

The overall start of the 2014 Pro Challenge will return to the familiar surroundings of Aspen, Colorado, with a circuit race in the mountain town. The 2014 edition will likely tackle a similar circuit race between Aspen and nearby Snowmass that saw Peter Sagan take victory in 2013.

On Tuesday, August 19, stage 2 will start in Aspen and work its way to Mt. Crested Butte, the site of two prior stage finishes in the race’s history. The route is expected to leave Aspen and head north, along state highway 82 toward Carbondale. Then, it would turn south along highway 133, over McClure Pass, toward Paonia. Adding a little spice to the route, organizers will likely take the race over the dirt roads leading to Kebler Pass, before a descent into the town of Crested Butte. From there, the race will most likely hit the slopes of the service road leading to the Mt. Crested Butte resort.

An alternative route could climb Independence Pass out of Aspen before an ascent of Cottonwood Pass outside of Buena Vista. A descent into Almont would be followed by a rush north toward Crested Butte on highway 135 before riders would tackle that same short, punchy climb to the ski resort just above Crested Butte.

Click the box in the upper right to view map in full screen.

On Wednesday, August 20, stage 3 will see the race’s first mountaintop finish. Starting in Gunnison, the route will likely climb the west side of Cottonwood Pass, a dirt climb that has been used in the race previously on two occasions. The race would descend on pavement to Buena Vista before heading south on Route 285, then turn west to climb the slopes of Monarch Pass using Route 50. In 2011, stage 1 traveled this climb out of nearby Salida before finishing in Mt. Crested Butte.

An alternative route could see the peloton leave Gunnison and head south on highway 114 all the way to Saguache, before turning north on Route 285 to Poncha Springs. The race would then ascend the east side of Monarch Pass. In either case, the finish line will be found at one of Colorado’s oldest ski areas, Monarch Mountain, whose base elevation of 10,790 makes it the highest in North America.

On Thursday, August 21, the racers will face a circuit race in Colorado Springs. Could we see them cruise around the Garden of the Gods, in a flashback to the terrain they passed through during the prologue in 2011? Or will it be a downtown race following the route of the finishing circuits of stage 5 in 2012? A detailed route will be announced in the spring.

On Friday, August 22, a new city, Woodland Park, will host the start of stage 5. From town, the race will likely head west along Route 24, then north along highway 9, cresting Hoosier Pass. Fans should look for a similar, dynamic finishing route as in stage 2 of the 2013 race, which saw the inclusion of the steep pitches of Moonstone Road where BMC Racing’s Mathias Frank was able to hold on for the stage win.

Saturday’s time trial in Vail will likely follow the classic route from the Vail Village and climb toward Vail Pass. It is a route steeped in history and one that the spectators and racers love; it would come as a surprise if organizers decided to alter the route.

In another logistical first, organizers will look to fans to provide feedback on four options for the final stage on the Front Range on Sunday. They include a:

— Denver circuit race similar to that used on the final day of 2013
— Start in Golden with a finish in Denver
— Start in Boulder and finish in Denver
— Start in Boulder and finish in Golden

Fans can vote for their preferred option at

Known for its altitude and climbs through the Rockies, the Pro Challenge is a major objective for many pros that call Colorado home. The 2013 edition saw part-time Aspen resident Tejay van Garderen (BMC) take the overall win this August in Denver, after assuming the overall lead in Beaver Creek at the end of stage 4.

“The USA Pro Challenge is something that motivates me from the start of the year,” van Garderen said. “It takes place in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and that happens to be in my backyard. I’m looking forward to defending my title on another challenging course.”

Additional details regarding the start and finish locations of the 2014 race, as well as the specific, detailed route will be announced in the spring.

Stage 1: Monday, August 18 – Aspen Circuit Race
Stage 2: Tuesday, August 19 – Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte
Stage 3: Wednesday, August 20 – Gunnison to Monarch Mountain (mountaintop finish)
Stage 4: Thursday, August 21 – Colorado Springs Circuit Race
Stage 5: Friday, August 22 – Woodland Park to Breckenridge
Stage 6: Saturday, August 23 – Vail Individual Time Trial
Stage 7: Sunday, August 24 – ???

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