Patrick Gretsch opens USA Pro Cycling Challenge with prologue victory
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Patrick Gretsch opens USA Pro Cycling Challenge with prologue victory

by Ben Atkins at 5:59 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
 
Early starting German holds off the overall favourites to take the race’s first ever yellow jersey

Patrick GretschPatrick Gretsch (HTC-Highroad) won the opening prologue of the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge to take the first yellow jersey of the race. The German specialist completed the 8.5km (5.18 miles) Colorado Springs course in 8’27”, two seconds faster than Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo), and four seconds faster than Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing).

Starting 41st of the 130 riders, Gretsch’s time stood up to every rider that followed, with none of the race favourites able to come close. The best of the overall contenders was Tour of Utah winner Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), eight seconds behind Gretsch, and fractions of a second quicker than Tour de France winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

"It was a very beautiful course with the mountains," said Gretsch’s HTC-Highroad sport director Brian Holm. "Which also gave us very fast downhills. It was a slower start but they were picking up a lot of speed in the middle. Then at about five [kilometres] to the finish it was pretty flat, and Gretsch had great form the whole way through."

The course, which ran between the Garden of the Gods Park and the junction of Colorado Avenue and Cascade Avenue in downtown Colorado Springs, ran predominantly downhill, but featured a nasty kick up to the finish. Many riders who looked to be posting a good time saw their finishing position slip away as they fought a too-big gear on the final few hundred metres.

The first rider to roll down the start ramp was Colombian Carlos Alzate (Team Exergy), who set a strong time of 8’41”. The next rider off was Ryan Roth (Spidertech p/b C10), who went three seconds faster to set a new best time of 8’38”, which many of the race’s big names would have trouble matching.

The eighth rider off, Adrian Hegyvari (UnitedHealthcare) went close to Alzate’s time, but the eleventh starter was Vande Velde, and he was to push Roth off the top of the standings. The former Tour de France fourth place took nine seconds off the Canadian’s time with 8’27”.

Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) went within two seconds of Vande Velde’s time, then Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare) was just four seconds slower, but no one else was to come close until Gretsch set off as starter number 41. The German, who won the opening prologue of the Ster ZLM Toer before taking third in his national time trial championships –behind teammates Bert Grabsch and Tony Martin –, blitzed down the course in 8’27” to go two seconds quicker than Vande Velde.

With many fast riders to follow though, Gretsch’s time was surely going to fall before the stage was over. The oldest man in the race, Leopard Trek’s Jens Voigt, managed to post a time of 8’34”, coming within seven seconds of Gretsch and complete a top five that would remain until the finish.

Despite a huge picture of himself displayed on the side of an office building Colorado Springs resident Danny Pate (HTC-Highroad) could only manage 8’38”, 11 seconds slower than his teammate and temporarily enough to put him in the top ten.

While nobody was able to challenge Gretsch’s position at the top of the standings, the later starters would all be expected to be fighting for the overall lead at the end of the week-long race. With many stage races decided by a matter of a few seconds, the prologue performance could prove crucial come Sunday.

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) was unable to match the performance of teammate Vande Velde, finishing in a slightly disappointing 8’44”. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) was only slightly slower with 8’45”, but surprisingly managed to beat Swedish champion, and Olympic silver medallist Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank-SunGard), who could only manage 8’48”.

Unsurprisingly Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), who generally struggles against the clock, slumped to 9’19”, giving himself a lot to do to catch the rest of the favourites.

Young American hope Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) managed a highly respectable 8’35”, just eight seconds behind teammate Gretsch, while Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was only marginally better than Basso with 9’03”.

Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervélo), wearing his ‘Captain America’ sinsuit as US champion, posted a time of 8’42”, which, had he not been in his first race since crashing out of the Tour de France, he would surely have been disappointed with.

Tour of Utah winner, and big race favourite Leipheimer was one of the riders who looked as though he was about to challenge Gretsch. The 37-year-old saw the seconds slip by though, as he hit the uphill finishing straight, and stopped the clock on 8’35”; eight seconds back and good enough for seventh place.

Starting last, and given the honour of race number one thanks to his Tour victory, Evans matched Leipheimer all the way around the course to finish just a fraction of a second slower than the American.

While Gretsch took the yellow leader’s jersey, HTC-Highroad teammate Van Garderen’s eighth place was good enough to earn him the lead in the young riders’ competition, while Pate’s home field advantage was good enough to earn him the most aggressive rider’s jersey.

"It's a great result today,” said Holm. “I had a feeling one of about four of our guys could take it, but to see three of our guys on the podium is fantastic. It's the first leader's jersey the team's ever gotten in Colorado, so we're very proud of it and we don't intend to give it up without a fight."

Result prologue
1. Patrick Gretsch (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 8.5km in 8’27”
2. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Cervélo @ 2s
3. Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team @ 4s
4. Robert Förster (Ger) UnitedHealthcare @ 6s
5. Jens Voigt (Ger) Leopard Trek @ 7s
6. George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
7. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack @ 8s
8. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad
9. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
10. Ryan Roth (Can) Spidertech p/b C10 @ 11s

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