Sagan outkicks Van Avermaet in USA Pro Challenge opening stage
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Sagan outkicks Van Avermaet in USA Pro Challenge opening stage

by Kyle Moore at 5:56 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
 
Slovak tries a small break in final 10km, then takes sprint once it all comes together

Peter SaganPeter Sagan (Cannondale) got yet another win on American soil to open the USA Pro Cycling challenge, sprinting to the line in Aspen quicker than Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing).

When things started to break up with the original break pulled back inside ten kilometres to go, Sagan joined a new split of about eight men, before two others broke away and took a lead inside the final two kilometres.

Having been one of the riders pulled back with about five kilometres left, Sagan tucked back in to prepare for the bunch sprint. Ironically it was Van Avermaet’s BMC squad who pulled back the Sagan breakaway, and then the two remaining riders to set up the sprint.

Van Avermaet showed his good form all through the Tour of Utah, but the Belgian was beaten by a bike length to the line in Aspen. Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare) was third, and a mix of general classification men rounded out the top ten.

Sagan gets the leader’s jersey to take into stage two. “I’m very happy,” he said afterwards, pleased with the stage and his sensations. “I’m thankful for my teammates and the support from the fans. I felt very good today. It was hard, but the climb wasn’t very long. Stage one was only about 100 kilometers, but tomorrow it will be even harder.”

Unlike some riders such as Tour de France champion Chris Froome, who arrived in recent days and paid the price of his non-adjustment to altitude on the opening stage, Sagan was fully adapted. He acknoweledges that was an important factor in his success.

“I came here two weeks ago to adjust to the altitude and I think it really helped me prepare by riding in Aspen,” he said. His primary goal in the race is to get ready for a major end of season target, but he’ll also seize whatever chances come his way.

“Like I said before, I’m really here to prepare for Worlds, but we’ll see day by day how it goes.”

How it played out:

An early breakaway trio got 40 seconds before being pulled back, and around eight men after that tried to get something, but the peloton didn’t want such a big escape to open the race. Out of the larger group to get away, Craig Lewis (Champion System) kept going and made it stick, eventually joined by Ian Burnett (Jelly Belly-Kenda) and Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman).

With 15km of the scheduled 97km out of the way, the American trio had a minute of advantage. The first stage featured three laps of a 32km circuit, a rolling route with two categorized climbs each time around – Snowmass and McLain Flats. One third of the way through, Burnett cruised over the finish line in Aspen for three sprint points, although the trio was still cycling through, not letting the line interrupt their pace-making.

Their gap topped out at the end of the first circuit, at two minutes, ten seconds, and the main bunch gradually chipped away at it over the next two circuits. King of the Mountains points weren’t offered the first time around, but each climb had four points available for the first man to the top on each of the next two laps. Cooke made it to the top of Snowmass first, and then took four more points in McLain Flats.

With under 40km left to race, the breakaway’s advantage was down under two minutes. Over the line in Aspen finishing lap two, Lewis sprung away for the points this time, but the trio was fighting a losing battle, only up 1’20” with one 32km circuit to go.

On the Snowmass climb a final time, Cooke was too strong once again. Burnett dropped from the breakaway shortly thereafter, just as Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky Procycling) was easing back from the peloton. Cooke then dropped Lewis on the final time through McLain Flats, intent on taking a clean sweep of the 16 KOM points before the peloton caught him back.

The Jamis-Hagens Berman rider did just that, holding the main bunch 20 seconds behind him as he crested the final climb with some 15 kilometres left in the stage. He was caught soon after, and almost immediately, a larger escape formed at the front.

The group threatened to upend the first stage. Cannondale had done most of the pace-making in the peloton throughout the stage, but the ever vigilant Sagan put himself in the new breakaway, and many other teams were represented as well.

Sagan, George Bennett (Radioshack-Leopard), Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk), Carter Jones (Bissell), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Tom Zirbel (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), and Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) all managed to split off the front, but it was Sky Procycling who figured they had a card to play. They helped to pull the group back, but Jones and Bennett got away on their own again.

The duo took it under the 5km banner, when the remainder of the short-lived break was caught. With none of their riders left out front, BMC was the squad to take up the chase, setting up Van Avermaet. Jones and Bennett rode well to stay away, but it was Michael Schär doing what he did so often for BMC in Utah, doing yeoman’s work to bring the escape back.

Turning right onto the finishing straight, UnitedHealthcare led out for Reijnen, but Van Avermaet got the jump off of their lead out. The Belgian pulled himself clear, but unfortunately for him, he had Sagan glued to his wheel.

The Slovak hit the gas and eventually worked his way around, putting a bike length between he and Van Avermaet, and taking the first leader’s jersey of the race.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage One Brief Results:

1, Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
2, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
3, Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare)
4, Tony Gallopin (Radioshack-Leopard)
5, Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing)
6, Damiano Caruso (Cannondale)
7, Rory Sutherland (Saxo-Tinkoff)
8, Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare)
9, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp)
10, Chris Baldwin (Bissell)

General Classification after Stage One:

1, Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
2, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
3, Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare)
4, Tony Gallopin (Radioshack-Leopard)
5, Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing)
6, Damiano Caruso (Cannondale)
7, Rory Sutherland (Saxo-Tinkoff)
8, Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare)
9, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp)
10, Chris Baldwin (Bissell)

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