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After Dennis had whittled the peloton down on the final climb, Bookwalter accelerated with 400m to go to win the first mountain stage at the USA Pro Challenge; Dennis made it a 1-2 for BMC and Bookwalter took the lead

Photo: ©Tim De Waele/TDW Sport






18.08.2015 @ 23:46 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Brent Bookwalter confirmed the excellent condition he had shown in the Tour of Utah when he took the biggest win of his career in the only summit finish at the USA Pro Challenge. After an impressively strong Rohan Dennis had set the pace on the final climb, the American accelerated with 400m to go to take a solo victory while Dennis dropped the rest to make it a 1-2 for BMC. Bookwalter also takes over the leader’s jersey.


Known as the loyal domestique, Brent Bookwalter has rarely got a chance to ride for himself. However, things have changed in recent weeks after he took a surprise fourth place in the Tour of Austria a month ago.


That marked him out as a contender for the Tour of Utah where he confirmed his progress by taking a third place after a consistent race that saw him finish in the top 8 of every stage except the first one. With the climbs being less severe and the race including a time trial, he went into this week’s USA Pro Challenge as one of the biggest favourites after having confirmed his ability to ride strongly at altitude.


Today he proved that he deserves his status as one of the BMC leaders as he took an impressive solo victory in the only summit finish of the race. After his strong teammate Rohan Dennis had blown the race to pieces on the final climb, he made a strong attack with 400m to go to pass his teammate in what would be a 1-2 for BMC


At the bottom of the final 7.6km climb, Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Garmin) and Greg Daniel (Axeon) held an advantage of 2.20 over the peloton that was led by the Jelly Belly team. As soon as they hit the climb, Brown attacked and his companion was unable to match his pace.


Calvin Watson (Trek) attacked from the peloton and managed to get a small advantage while Unitedhealthcare took over the pace-setting. They briefly split the field as a small group got clear but BMC managed to bring it back together.


While Daniel was dangling just 10 seconds behind Brown, Watson stayed a few metres ahead of the peloton which was led by BMC. With 5km to go, he was passed by Janier Acevedo (Cannondale-Garmin) who launched a strong attack to which BMC didn’t respond.


While Acevedo extended his advantage, Watson was brought back by the diminished peloton that had sent race leader Taylor Phinney out the back door. It was Rohan Dennis setting the pace for BMC and he had brought the gap down to just 1.15 with 3km to go. Meanwhile, Daniel was losing ground and now 25 seconds behind.


With an injection of pace, Dennis made the peloton split even more and reeled Acevedo in. Only his teammate Brent Bookwalter, Julian Arredondo, Julien Bernard (Trek), Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin), Jaime Roson, Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural), Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly), Jonathan Clarke (Unitedhalthcare), Rob Squire (Hincapie), Daniel Jaramillo (Jamis) were left at this point.


In steep section with 2km to go, another selection took place, leaving just Dennis, Squire, Bookwalter, Clarke, Carthy and Roson in contention. Formolo was chasing on his own a little further back as they flew past the fading Daniel.


Brown passed the red kite with an advantage of just 5 seconds where Roson cracked and left just five riders in the main group. They caught the fading Cannondale rider just 100m later as Dennis just continued to press on.


Just as Dennis was about to launch a sprint, his teammate Bookwalter accelerated and sprinted past his teammate. He put 6 seconds into the Australian who was still strong enough to distance the rest of the group and make it a 1-2 for BMC, with Carthy and Clarke reaching the finish with a time loss of 10 seconds.


With no bonus seconds in the race, Bookwalter now leads Dennis by 6 seconds in the overall standings. He will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s third stage which is another day of tough climbing. Right from the start, a category 4 climb will test the legs of the riders and then a long flat section leads to the bottom of the famous Independence Pass that summits at 3678m of altitude. The final31.5km are mainy descending and only includes a short flat section in the end.


The only summit finish

After yesterday’s sprint stage, it was time for the first GC battle in stage 2 which brought the riders over 184.7km from Steamboat Springs to the only summit finish of the race at Arapahoe Basin. Right after the start, the riders went up the Rabbit Ears Pass before they descended to a long flat section. The category 3 Ute Pass served as a warm-up before a slightly rising section led to the bottom of the final category 1 climb which averaged 6% over 7.6km.


It was a perfect day for a bike race when the riders gathered for the start. All riders that finished the opening stage were present as they rolled out for their neutral ride.


The break gets clear

Surprisingly, the early break was allowed to go almost straight from the fun. After 5km of racing, Nate Brown (Cannondale-Garmin), Kyle Murphy (Caja Rural), Daniel Summerhill (Unitedhealthcare), Benjamin Dilley (Novo Nordisk), Will Routley (Optum), Robin Carpenter (Hincapie), Eric Marcotte (Smartstop), Carson Miller (Jamis), Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly) and Daniel Barry (Budget Forklifts) already had an advantage of 1.10 while Gregory Brenes (Jamis) as in lone pursuit 20 seconds behind.


As soon as they started to climb the Rabbit Ear’s Pass, Dilley was dropped from the break while the peloton took it relatively easy and allowed the gap to go out to 2.25. Brenes passed Dilley before he joined the front group while BMC took control of the main group.


Two riders bridge across

Dilley was caught by the peloton while Greg Daniel (Axeon) and Antonio Molina (Caja Rural) attacked from the peloton as they went up the climb. The pair rode strongly to make the junction and make it a 12-rider breakaway.


Corentin Cherhal (Novo Nordisk) abandoned the race before Routley beat Summerhill, Murphy, Miller, Brenes, Brown and Barry in the KOM sprint. Molina was briefly dropped from the break but managed to regain contact as the group came back together on the descent.


The gap grows

Michael Schär (BMC), Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo), Daniel Turek (Cycling Academy) and Laurent Didier (Trek) briefly took off in pursuit but were brought back as BMC again assumed their position on the front. With 160km to go, they were just 1.40 behind the leaders.


The break briefly split on the descent but came back together before Tommy Nankervis (Budget Forklifts) and Brad Huff (Optum) became the next riders to abandon the race. Meanwhile, the gap was growing and had gone out to 4.25 with 140km to go.


Caruso and Beltran go down

At the bottom of the descent, BMC had upped the pace and reduced their deficit to 3.10 where they kept it stable for a while. Meanwhile, Carpenter beat Barry and Molina in the intermediate sprint.


Marcotte went back to get mechanical service in the break while a strong crosswind suddenly split the peloton. However, things calmed down before they got to the feed zone where Damiano Caruso (BMC) and Edward Beltran (Tinkoff-Saxo) hit the deck.


A nervous peloton on the gravel road

Antonio Sampedro (Cycling Academy) became the next rider to abandon the race while BMC allowed the gap to go out to 4.25. Further up the road, Fischer dropped back to his team car for mechanical assistance.


With 75km to go, the peloton hit a 20km gravel road that made for some very nervous racing in the group. BMC, Cannondale-Garmin, Trek and Tinkoff-Saxo lined out their troops on the front, with Kilian Frankiny, Ted King, Calvin Watson and Jesus Hernandez setting the pace as a consequence , the gap melted away and was quickly down to just 2.25. At this point, Dilley and Hector Saez (Caja Rural) abandoned while Caruso had to work his way back to the peloton after a mechanical.


The break splits up

The escapees continued to lose time as they went over the gravel road and when they exited the section, they were only 1.55 ahead. However, things calmed down as they got back onto the tarmac and as they went up Ute Pass, the gap again started to grow while Michael Schär set the pace for BMC.


In the break, Brown was doing some damage. Barry was the first to get dropped and later Marcotte also had to surrender. Fisher was the next to crack and as they approached the summit it was also over for Barry.


KOM points for Routley

At the top of the climb, Summerhill and Routley sprinted for the KOM points and it was the latter who came out on top, with Murphy, Millar and Brown taking the minor point. As they hit the descent, Brenes managed to rejoin the group while Fisher, Marcotte and Barry were all caught.


With 50km to go, the gap had gone out to 3.00 and it even reached 3.14 10km later while Schär, Franiny and Manuel Senni set the pace in the peloton. The trio slowly started to accelerate though and when they entered the final 30km the gap was 2.20.


Brown and Daniel take off

It stayed around that mark for a while until Brown who had looked like the strongest rider in the break, tried to attack with 21km to go. However, his companions responded quickly and so the 9-rider group was still together when they entered the final 20km with an advantage of 2.30.


Brown refused to give up and so he launched another attack. This time no one was able to follow until Daniel bridged the gap.


A fight for position

Brown led Daniel across the line in the final intermediate sprint at a point when they had extended their advantage to 20 seconds. Meanwhile, Miller was dropped from the chase group.


The front duo was working well together and so the gap had gone out to 50 seconds and 2.40 respectively as they entered the final 13km. At this point, the fight for position had started in the peloton and so Miller was quickly brought back.


Drapac hit the front and they stayed there until Jelly Belly took over. Their fast pace spelled the end for the chasers before they hit the climb where the drama unfolded.



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