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Having made it back to the front on the descent from Independence Pass, Reijnen won stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge in a 30-rider sprint; Bookwalter finished 9th and defended the overall lead

Photo: Feltet.dk

ROHAN DENNIS

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RUBEN ZEPUNTKE

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USA PRO CYCLING CHALLENGE

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UNITEDHEALTHCARE PRO CYCLING

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19.08.2015 @ 23:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After his frustrating second place in stage one, Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealtcare) got the elusive stage victory in the USA Pro Challenge when he emerged as the strongest in a 30-rider sprint on stage 3. Dropped on the Independence Pass, he rejoined the front on the descent and managed to hold off Rohan Dennis (BMC) and Ruben Zepuntke (Cannondale-Garmin) to take his second stage victory ever in the American race. Brent Bookwalter (BMC) was ninth and defended the overall lead.

 

Last year Kiel Reijnen enjoyed a breakthrough second half of the season when he won a stage and battled hard against close friend Alex Howes in the USA Pro Challenge. His performances earned him a spot on the American team for the World Championships and created lofty expectations for the 2015 season.

 

Unfortunately, the first part of the year has not gone to plan for the fast American who has been unable to deliver on his promises. However, it now seems that he is back on track and is ready for another great month of August after he won the first stage of the Tour of Utah.

 

His great performance in Utah set him up for his home race, USA Pro Challenge, where he was targeting another stage win after last year’s success. He got close in the opener but a surprise move by Taylor Phinney meant that he had to settle for third. Today he achieved his goal when he did everything right in the reduced bunch sprint on stage 3.

 

The key point in the race was the mighty Independence Pass which summited just 32.1km from the finish. At the bottom, an 11-rider break of Kyle Murphy (Caja Rural), Daniel Jaramillo (Jamis), Laurent Didier (Trek), Joe Lewis (Hincapie), Janier Acevedo (Cannondale), Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural), Timothy Roe (Drapac), Dion Smith (Hincapie), Dan Eaton (Axeon), Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts) had an advantage of 4 minutes over the peloton but as soon as the road pointed upwards, the BMC trio of Manuel Senni, Damiano Caruso and Kilian Frankiny cooperated with Tannr Putt (Unitedhealthcare) to slowly bring it down.

 

The gap came down to around 2.30 before the breakaway managed to react and stabilize the situation. The faster pace was too much for Lewis who was the first riders to get dropped from the breakaway.

 

With 45km to go, Didier, Smith and Bobridge forced the pace and they immediately distanced their companions. Two kilometres later, they already put 25 seconds into their former companions who had dropped Acevedo while the peloton was at 2.15.

 

The group worked well together until 38km remained where they had put 50 seconds into their chasers and increased their advantage over the peloton to 2.30. Here Didier made his move and Smith and Bobridge had no response to his acceleration.

 

One kilometre later, Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) attacked from the peloton which had been whittled down to just around 30 riders. Michael Schär (BMC) and Janez Brajkovic (Unitedhealtcare) were now setting the pace and they didn’t even react to the attack. Instead, they kept the Italian on a short leash until Rohan Dennis took over with 35km to go.

 

Just like yesterday, the Australian made the group explode as he slowly reeled Formolo in. Benito had attacked from the chase group but the rest of them were brought back by the unstoppable Dennis with 34km to go.

 

The gap was slowly coming down and was now only 1.30 while Didier had distanced his chasrs by 30 seconds. At this point, only 11 riders were left in the main group: Dennis, Brent Bookwalter, (BMC), Jaime Roson (Caja Rural), Rob Britton (Smartstop), Jonathan Clarke (Unitedhealthcare) Julien Bernard (Trek), Jaime Roson (Caja Rural), Formolo (Cannondale), Lachlan Morton, Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly) and Rob Squire (Hincapie).

 

That’s when Morton attacked from the main group and quickly flew past the fading Benito. Moments later he also passed Smith and Bobridge before he crested the summit in second position, 25 seconds behind Didier. Benito joined forces with Smith and Bobridge whim he led over the summit, with the peloton following just metres behind.

 

The chase trio was quickly brought back while Morton caught Didier. The Luxembourger refused to do any work though and with 25km to go, the front duo was caught. At this point, Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural) had rejoined the main group.

 

Dennis continued to ride on the front while Mannion took a flyer off the front. He was joined by Benito but Dennis slowly reeled the duo in with 21km to go.

 

Dennis continued to ride on the front until Morton tried again with 18km to go but it was impossible to escape the Australian’s clutches. Moments later, a big group made the junction and so it was a 30-rider group that had gathered.

 

Dennis continued to ride on the front and easily responded to an attack from a Caja Rural rider before Marco Canola (Unitedhealthcare) gave it a go. Michael Schär took over the pace-setting and brought him back as they entered the final 10km.

 

Schär kept riding on the front until they entered flat roads with 5km to go. Just as they passed that mark, Bobridge took offer and Dennis was quick to latch onto his wheel.

 

The pair immediately got a big gap but as Dennis refused to do any work and Unitedhealthcare started to chase, they were slowly getting reeled in. Morton made another move but Dennis was quick to join him before Unitedhealthcare brought it back.

 

Mannion made an immediate counterattack and got a small advantage but Brajkovic was now chasing for Unitedhealthcare and he slowly reeled the American in with 2km to go.

 

Brajkovic rode on the front until Morton launched a brief attack just before the flamme rouge. He never got a gap and instead Schär, Dennis and Boowalter hit the front to prepare the sprint.

 

Canola and Reijnen smartly moved into second and third behind Schär and Canola did a great job to respond when Logan Owen (Axeon) launched a long sprint. Reijnen accelerated from second position and easily passed Owen while Dennis could do no more than follow his wheel. Ruben Zepuntke finished fast but has to settle for third.

 

Bookwalter was unable to contest the sprint but that was enough to defend the overall lead. He still holds a 6-second lead over Dennis as he goes into the fourth stage which should be a day for the GC riders. Right from the start, the riders will again climb the Independence Pass and after an easier middle section, the stage comes to an exciting conclusion with the category 2 Hoosier Pass and a downhill run to the finish that is interrupted by the legbreaker Moonstone climb just 4km from the finish.

 

A big day of climbing

After yesterday’s summit finish, there was more rough climbing in store on stage 3 which brought the riders over 163.2km from Copper Mountain to Aspen. Right from the start, the riders went up a category 3 climb before they descended to a long flat middle section. In the finale, they would go up the 24.1km Independence Pass that averaged 3% ad summited just 32.1km from the finish. The final part of the stage was mostly downhill, with less than 10km of flat roads in the end.

 

It was another perfect day for a bike race when the riders gathered for the start and all riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out for the neutral ride. With a tough uphill start, it was no surprise that the attacks were flying right from the beginning and riders were getting dropped almost as soon as they started to climb.

 

The break takes off

Less than five kilometres from the top of the climb, 13 riders got a solid gap but they were brought back before they reached the summit. This opened the door for Kyle Murphy (Caja Rural) to take off and he was joined by Daniel Jaramillo (Jamis) in a move that would be the foundation of the early break.

 

Jaramillo led Murphy over the top of the climb while Laurent Didier (Trek) and Joe Lewis (Hincapie) were first from a chase group that had formed on the upper slopes of the climb. In addition to those two riders, Janier Acevedo (Cannondale), Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural), Timothy Roe (Drapac), Dion Smith (Hincapie), Dan Eaton (Axeon), Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts) were part of the action and they caught the front duo to make it an 11-rider breakaway.

 

BMC take control

Eric Young (Optum) crashed on the descent while Brian Kamstra (Novo Nordisk), Guy Gabay (Cycling Academy) and Eric Marcotte (Smartsop) abandoned the race. Meanwhile, the peloton had allowed the gap to go out to 3 minutes.

 

BMC took control of the peloton and brought the gap down from a first maximum of 3.20 to 2 minutes as they entered the final 115km. Moments later, the escapees rolled through the first intermediate sprint, with Hernandez leading Murphy and Jaramillo across the line.

 

Unitedhealthcare come to the fore

With 85km to go, Unitedhealthcare joined forces with BMC in leading the chase while Drapac was hiding a little further. Nonetheless the gap had gone out to 3.25 when they entered the final 65km.

 

Jaramillo led Murphy and Didier across the line in the second intermediate sprint before they slowly started to climb the mighty Independence pass. At this point, the gap had gone out to 4 minutes but as the peloton upped the pace, the exciting finale started.

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