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In a photo finish, Howes beat Reijnen when a reduced field sprinted for the win in the final stage of the USA Pro Challenge; van Garderen won the race overall

Photo: Garmin-Sharp








24.08.2014 @ 23:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having been beaten by his rival in stage 1, Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) got his revenge over Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare) on the final day of the USA Pro Challenge when the American won a sprint from a reduced peloton. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) finished sixth and won the race overall.


When the USA Pro Challenge started in Aspen, Alex Howes was beaten into second by his training partner Kiel Reijnen after the pair had escaped in the finale of the first stage. Today the pair were again involved in a close battle and this time Howes came out on top.


After their teams had combined forces all day, the final stage came down to reduced bunch sprint and here the two Americans again battled it out for the stage win. In a photo finish, Howes held off Reijnen after the peloton had brought back Jens Voigt (Trek) who had been on the attack in the final race of his long career.


After yesterday’s queen stage, the USA Pro Challenge ended with a short 126.2km from Boulder to Denver. After a hilly first part that included a passage of the Lookout Mountain, the riders finished the race by doing a few laps of a completely flat circuit in Denver, meaning that the stage was expected to suit the sprinters


All riders who finished yesterday’s stage, took the start under beautiful sunny conditions and they got the race and they got the stage off to a very fast start. After 7km of attacking, a very strong 12-rider group got clear and unsurprisingly Jens Voigt (Trek) was in the thick of the action.


He was joined by Caleb Fairly (Garmin), Cameron Wurf (Cannondale), Adam Phelan (Drapac), Jonny Clarke (Unitedhealthcare), Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk), Hugh Carthy (Rapha), Jesse Anthony (Optum), Matt Cooke (Jamis), Tiago Machado (NetApp) and Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell) and after 10km of racing, they were 30 seconds ahead.  They managed to extend their advantage to 50 seconds while BMC set a steady pace in the peloton.


Wurf decided to drop back to his Cannondale teammates who started to chase in quest to set up Elia Viviani for sprint win. Cristiano Salerno and Ivan Basso did the early work but the gap had now come up to 2.30.


As they started to climb Loookout Mountain, the advantage was 1.40 but now Garmin-Sharp decided that they wanted to get rid of the sprinters. Phil Gaimon hit the front and his fast pace caused several riders to drop off.


Meanwhile, the breakaway splintered to pieces. Clarke was the first to get dropped and later Carthy and Phelan also lost contact. Next Fairly and Cooke fell off the pace before Carthy managed to rejoin the group.


The Brit was dropped again and now Anthony was also left behind. With Zepuntke, Rogers and Voigt as the driving forces, the remaining quintet fought hard to maintain an advantage while Garmin had whittled the peloton to just around 25 riders. Big favourite Elia Viviani was one of the riders to get dropped and he joined forces with his Cannondale teammates in a quest to get back.


Garmin brought the gap down to 40 seconds at the top of the climb but as the front quintet managed to reopen it to 1.30. All the chasers had now been swallowed up as Voigt ook maximum points ahead of Rogers and Zepuntke


Garmin got some assistance from Unitedhealthcare and those two teams worked hard. For a long time, the front group managed to maintain an advantage of 1.30 and with 50km to go, they were still 1.20 ahead.


Voigt beat Megias and Rogers in the first intermediate sprint while Cannondale were now getting closer to the yellow jersey group. With 42km to go, they were just 30 seconds behind but they never made the junction.


BMC now joined forces with Garmin and UnitedHealthCare, with Peter Stetina contributing to the pace-setting. That made a difference and when Voigt won the final intermediate sprint with 30km to go, the escapees were less than a minute ahead.


Zepuntke launched the first attack and when he was brought back, Voigt gave it a go. Megias was glued to his wheel and later Rogers joined them, making an immediate counterattack.


The escapees found back together before Rogers made another attempt. When he was back in the fold, Voigt tried again and this time he got clear with Megias on his wheel.


While their chasers were brought back, the dup worked hard to keep their advantage. With 20km to go, the gap was hovering around the 30-second mark.


However, they had no chance against Unitedhealthcare, Garmin and BMC and with 9km to go, they were back in the fold. Riccardo Zoidl launched an immediate counterattack and as UnitedHealthCare and Garmin had now blown up, he immediately gained 15 seconds.


Lots of riders tried to attack but it was Pawels Poljanski (Tinkoff-Saxo) who got clear. With 5km to go, he caught Zoidl but now BMC had started to chase.


The American team caught Zoidl with 1.7km to go. Poljanski tried to keep the break alive but he was brought back before the peloton passed the flamme rouge.


Ben Hermans led the group under the red kite while the sprinters jostled for position. Carter Jones tried to bring Ryan Anderson further up but it was Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthCare) who had latched onto the wheel of BMC sprinter Michael Schär.


Tejay van Garderen did the lead-out but Schär was easily passed by Reijnen who seemed to be taking the stage win. However, Howes came very fast in the end and took a narrow win in a photo finish.


Van Garderen finished 6th to defend his overall lead and won the race overall, with Tom Danielson and Sergey Tvetcov completing the podium. Reijen won the sprint jersey while Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis) took the mountains jersey. Clement Chevrier (Bissell) was the best young rider and BMC the best team.


Many of the riders from the Colorado race will be back in action on September 2 when the Tour of Alberto kicks off two weeks of racing in Canada.



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