USA Pro Challenge: Van Avermaet and Reijnen go close to stage win in Aspen
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

USA Pro Challenge: Van Avermaet and Reijnen go close to stage win in Aspen

by Shane Stokes at 5:38 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
BMC Racing Team and UnitedHealthcare podium finishers beaten by Sagan, will keep trying

Greg van AvermaetThey were the riders who were closest to denying Peter Sagan his stage win on day one of the USA Pro Challenge, but who came up short against the Slovakian in the final sprint to the line in Aspen. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) and Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare) were left rueing what might have been, but also reported themselves as being satisfied with how they rode their races. They will both try again in the days ahead, fuelled by the near-misses.

Van Avermaet clocked up his fifth runner-up slot of the year. He jumped hard to try to out-fox Sagan, but the Tour de France green jersey winner jetted past him inside the final 100 metres.

“I came through the last corner in second position and directly started my sprint because I didn't know where Peter was,” Van Avermaet explained afterwards. “In the last 150 meters, he came over me. But it was good to try it. I know Peter is a little bit stronger than me in the sprint. Second is a little bit disappointing after all of my second-place finishes in Utah, but it was good to try.”

The Belgian rider has shown very strong form in recent weeks, picking up two stages plus the overall in the Tour de Wallonie, and then going to net a stage and three runner-up slots in the recent Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah two weeks ago.

He is clearly one of the riders in condition, and will hope to pick up a stage win this week. He said afterwards that he was pleased with how his BMC Racing team-mates performed.

“Everybody did a good pull,” he said. “Michi (Schär) was incredibly strong. He did the last three kilometers on his own, to the last 300 meters almost. It was good to have him.”

His team-mate Tejay van Garderen, who has finished second and third overall in the race in the past and who is hoping to win this year’s edition, took fifth. He was one of only seventeen riders who finished on the same time as Sagan, with other GC contenders dropping five seconds due to a small gap in the bunch.

“It's always good to be on the good side of the splits,” he said. “It is definitely a good start. It's good for morale. I am actually surprised where some of the GC (general classification) guys are. Some of the big favourites like Andrew Talansky and Chris Froome lost like five minutes. So that's a bit surprising.”

Meanwhile Reijnen was clocked up third on the opening stage and showed that the UnitedHealthcare team is determined to take on the big WorldTour squads in the race.

“It was going to be a really tough day no matter what,” he told KUSA TV after the stage. “I think a lot of guys suffered at altitude and with the heat. I know I did and I live at altitude. I think it is always disappointing to not win, but given the caliber of racers here and how that finish went, I know the faster guys won.

“I was happy to get on the podium though and finish what the team started today. It was great to pay my teammates back for all the work they did.”

General manager and team director Mike Tamayo said that Reijnen had spent a lot of time at altitude to get ready for the race and as a result, he knew that he would be a factor on the stage.

“We told the boys to hit it with everything they had once they hit the last corner,” he said. “Lucas nailed that final corner and from there, it was up to Kiel. And he delivered. Anytime you are sprinting against Sagan and come in 3rd, that’s not bad. We will take the podium finish and are happy with the result. We are in the hunt and looking forward to tomorrow.”

Team-mate Lucas Euser, who finished third in the Tour of Utah, was pleased with his eighth on the stage. Along with Ireland’s Philip Deignan, who spoke to VeloNation prior to the start of the race, he is part of the team’s GC hopes for the overall classification.

Netting a high finish is a good morale boost for him and shows that he is in the right condition to go forward from this point.

“Today provided a great chance for us to seize an opportunity and go with it. When BMC’s lead ran out with 500 meters left and I knew Kiel was right behind, we knew it was our best chance for a podium finish,” he said. “I led Kiel out and he went for it. We stuck our necks out and it worked! We’re really proud of Kiel’s finish. It is cycling at its best.”

The race continues today with a tough 202.9 kilometre stage from Aspen to Breckenridge. It includes the climbs of Independence Pass and Hoosier Pass, and these should once again thin the list of stage contenders right down.


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