Stages 3-4 – Crazy Crowd at Independence Pass – Surprise in Aspen…
Mike Tomlinson, of BikeSport, witnessed these exciting stages at the USA Pro Challenge.
We set up to watch the Stage 3 yesterday at the top on Independence Pass. The race seemed very likely to follow a predicable script so we decided to go have fun with the fans. And fun it was! It reminded me of TV scenes at the top of climbs at the Tour de France.
Independence Pass has incredible views and is at the top of an eight mile climb with KOM points. It was also packed with fans wanting to have a good time and cheer the riders to the summit. The tone was set as we drove up the climb when we spotted a festively dressed rider ascending the climb on a colorfully decorated unicycle. At the top there was every sort of costume, music, dancing, drinking? It was like we went to a party and a bike race broke out.
When the riders came through, crowd noise rose to a fever pitch as the costumed fans ran alongside the riders. A UCI professional bike race is about so much more than the guys on the bikes and the organizers and fans of the USAPC do it right!
Stage 3 was predictable with GC leading BMC letting a break get a couple of minutes. The sprinter teams then joining in the chase to close the gap before the descent into Aspen. The break was caught resulting in a sprint win for Keil Reijnen (USA) riding for United Health Care.
As we went to the Stage 4 finish line in Breckenridge we anticipated more of the same but Rohan Dennis, BMC, gave everyone a big surprise, sprinting past Yellow Jersey teammate Brent Bookwalter to take the stage win and to claim the Yellow Jersey with a 13 second lead over Bookwalter.
The shootout between Bookwalter and Dennis was not expected until the Stage 5 Time Trial the next day. Bookwalter is viewed as the better sprinter of the two but Dennis has shown amazing heart. Will that heart and 13 seconds be enough to hold off TT champ Bookwalter?