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Riding for the Hincapie Development Team, Carpenter took a surprise win in the first mountain stage of the USA Pro Challenge, having held off the favourites on Mt. Crested Butte; Howes finished second and took the leader’s jersey

Photo: Sirotti






19.08.2014 @ 23:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) proved that he has a great future in the cycling world when he took a breakthrough win in today’s first mountain stage of the USA Pro Challenge. Under torrential rain, the young American emerged as the strongest from the early break and held off the race favourites on Mount Crested Butte while Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) was the only rider who could keep up with defending champion Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and took over the leader’s jersey.


Less than two weeks ago, Robin Carpenter earned lots of praise for his aggressive showing in the Tour of Utah where he wore the mountains jersey for several days. Those performances had marked him out as a man to watch for the future and today he confirmed that he has a big future ahead of him when he won the second stage of the USA Pro Challenge.


After a frantic start, Carpenter made it into a 12-rider breakaway that escaped after 70km of racing and he survived the gradual selection on the Kebbler Pass when the many attacks started to whittle down the group. With the BMC team chasing hard, however, he started to lose ground and with 30km to go, the front group was just 30 seconds ahead.


Carpenter refused to give up and launched a solo attack. In impressive fashion he managed to extend his advantage to 1.20 and when he crested the summit 15km from the finish, he was still 45 seconds ahead.


He got some help from torrential rain that prompted the organizers to briefly stop the race and the peloton to take it easy on the descent. That allowed him to reopen his advantage sufficiently to narrowly hold off the favourites on the final climb to the finish.


After the hilly opening stage, the riders faced the first summit finish in stage two which brought them over 169.7km from Aspen to the top of Mount Crested Butte. After a slightly descending first part, the riders went up the category 1 McClure Pass before going down to the bottom of the category 2 Kebler Pass. Having made it to the top via dirt roads, the riders descended to the bottom of the final short, step ramp to the finish.


The race got off to a start under pleasant weather conditions but two riders didn’t sign in this morning. Joshua Berry (SmartStop) who was in yesterday’s break, and Kevin De Mesmaeker (Novo Nordisk) who finished last, both left the race after just one day of racing.


The race started very fast as several riders wanted to be part of the early break. Matej Mohoric (Cannondale) and Toms Skujins (Hincapie) were the first riders to get a significant gap and while Daniel Jaramillo (Jamis) set off in pursuit, they built an advantage of 30 seconds.


Jaramillo was brought back by the peloton which was not content with the situation and when the gap was down to 10 seconds, Skujins sat up. Moments later, it was also over for Mohoric and so the peloton was allowed to sprint it out for the points in the first intermediate sprint.


Ty Magner (Hincapie) took maximum points but UnitedHealthCare were keen to try to make it better in the second sprint. The American team have made it clear that their big goal is the sprints jersey and so they kept things together for the next battle for the points.


Reijnen finished second behind Magner in that sprint while Jure Kocjan (SmartStop) took the final point on offer. With the sprints over, UnitedHealthCare loosened their grip and this opened the door for new attacks.


The fast pace made the peloton split, with a 26-rider group getting a gap, but the peloton regrouped a little later. Instead, Cristian Salerno (Cannondale), Jai Crawford (Drapac) and Jesse Anthony (Optum) got clear but their attempt proved to be futile.


After 70km of racing, the right move was finally formed when Michael Torckler (SmartStop), Crawford, Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis), Anthony, Chris Jones (UnitedHealthCare), Luis Davila (Jelly Belly), Dion Smith (Hincapie) and Harry Carpenter (Hincapie) took off. Joe Lewis (Hincapie) and Kirk Carlsen (Jelly Belly) bridged the gap and a little later Mohoric and David de la Cruz (NetApp) also joined the move.


The peloton finally slowed down as they started to climb the McClure Pass and with 85km to go, they were 2.40 behind. 1km from the top, de la Cruz attacked and he crested the summit as the first rider while KOM leader Jacques-Maynes beat Torckler, Crawford, Davila, Smith, Carlsen, Anthony, Lewis and Mohoric in the sprint for the minor points.


BMC and Garmin-Sharp had now taken control of the peloton and they allowed the gap to reach a maximum of 4.10 with 68km to go. Moments later, the riders turned onto the gravel roads that led them to the top of the Kebler Pass.


While Garmin stopped their chase work, BMC got some assistance from Trek and for some time, Calvin Watson, Markel Irizar and Martin Kohler were setting the pace. While several riders got dropped, the trio brought the gap down to 3 minutes when 45km still remained.


Moments later, Torckler launched the first attack from the front group. Anthony, Carpenter and Jacques-Maynes were the first to bridge the gap and later Smith, Davila, Lewis and Carlsen also made the junction.


Davila made an immediate counterattack and got company from Jacques-Maynes. The pair stayed clear for a little while before Torckler, Anthony, Lewis and Carpenter managed to rejoin them.


With 37km to go, Frank Schleck moved ahead to ask his teammates to stop their chase effort and so it was now left to Yannick Eijssen (BMC) to do the work. That didn’t cause the pace to go down though and when the Belgian blew up, Brent Bookwalter took over for BMC.


Mohoric, de la Cruz and Smith rejoined the front group which was now only 1.25 ahead. This prompted the stronger riders to ride a bit faster and with 30km to go, the group split again as Jacques-Maynes, Carpenter, Torckler, Davila and Anthony got clear.


Lewis and de la Cruz fought hard to rejoin them but they continued to lose ground. Meanwhile, Bookwalter continued to ride hard in the peloton and he brought the chasers back into the fold.


With 25km to go, the gap was only 50 seconds but there was no cooperation in the front group which continued its attacking racing. Carpenter launched a solo move which spelled the end for Torckler who dropped off the pace.


Carpenter got a solid gap while Anthony briefly took off in pursuit. The Optum rider was passed by Jacques-Maynes and Davila but they lost ground to Carpenter who was on a great ride.


While the chasers were all swallowed up the peloton, Carpenter managed to extend his advantage from just 30 seconds to 1.20 but as the road got a bit steeper near the top, he again started to lose ground. As he crested the summit to score the maximum 10 KOM points, his advantage had been reduced to just 45 seconds.


It had now started to rain heavily which prompted the organizers to neutralize the race in the dirt section of the descent. The race was restarted when they hit the pavement where both Carpenter and the small 25-rider peloton were asked to stop.


Several riders vented their frustration as they had apparently not been told about the neutralization, meaning that they had not done the dangerous part of the descent cautiously. Furthermore, many riders who had been dropped, were allowed to start the race with the peloton when the competition was resumed.


When the race was restarted, Carpenter was given his 45-seconds advantage and he crossed the line at the final intermediate sprint as the lone leader of the race. Meanwhile, the peloton splintered on the tricky, wet and dangerous descent as several riders refused to take any risks.


At the bottom of the descent, only around 15 riders were left in the main group that was still led by BMC. More riders were dropped as the American team continued to ride hard on the lower slopes of the final 3km climb to the finish, with race leader Kiel Reijnen being one of the riders to lose contact.


Impressively, Carpenter managed to extend his advantage to 1.20 by the time he passed the 2km to go sign. In the peloton, Bookwalter was setting a steady pace but as he started to fade, more riders rejoined from behind.


Tinkoff-Saxo now took over the pace-setting, with Michael Rogers riding on the front but they didn’t take back much time on Carpenter. Passing the flamme rouge, he was still 1.05 ahead.


At that point, Tejay van Garderen launched the expected attack and surprisingly, Howes was the only rider that could keep up with the defending champion. Having briefly slowed down, the American made another acceleration but Howes stayed glued to his wheel.


However, there was no one stopping Carpenter who held off his chasers to take a breakthrough victory. A few seconds later, Howes beat van Garderen in the sprint for second while the rest of the peloton rolled across the line one by one after the peloton had blown to pieces, with Tom Danielson and Rafal Majka being among the riders to lose time to van Garderen.


Having finished second for the second day in a row, Howes took over the leader’s jersey and now goes into tomorrow’s third stage with an 11-second over Ben Hermans (BMC) who finished fourth. He faces a tough first day in the lead as Wednesday is the day of the queen stage. After a flat start, the riders go up the big Monarch Pass before descending down to a flat section that leads to the bottom of the Monarch Mountain which is the scene of the hardest mountaintop finish in the history of the race.



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