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USA PC’12 St.1: Tyler Takes Telluride

Photo Report: The 2012 USA Pro Challenge got off to an exciting start, as the riders traveled the 125.7-mile route from Durango to Telluride where Tyler Farrar (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda ultimately took home the stage win after a battle to the finish.

– Photos by Darrell Parks, words provided by USA Pro Challenge –

In a difficult first stage complete with two Waste Management sprints and three Nissan King of the Mountains competitions, the day ended with an all-out sprint to the finish, which saw Alessandro Bazzana (ITA) of Team Type 1-SANOFI take second and Damiano Caruso (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale claim third.

“We knew we had the top riders in the world racing in the 2012 USA Pro Challenge, but today, with the competitive level of racing we saw right out the gate, they showed they’re here to win,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge. “We saw impressive crowds cheering on the riders at the start line in Durango all the way to the packed streets of Telluride this afternoon. We have an exciting race ahead of us.”

Comprised of 16 teams and 124 riders, which include reigning champion Levi Leipheimer and 2011 Tour de France Champion Cadel Evans, the field for the 2012 race started the day with a bang. After heading out of downtown, the riders approached the first Waste Management sprint in Durango, which was taken by Nathan Haas (AUS) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, Javier Eduardo Gomez Pineda (COL) of EPM-UNE and Martin Velits (SVK) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep.

And with the sprint came the first breakaway of the day consisting of a decent size group of 22 that included Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda riders Tom Danielson (USA), Peter Stetina (USA) and Dave Zabriskie, as well as Jens Voigt (GER) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek and Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale, among others. Followed by a chase group and the peloton, they approached the first Nissan KOM of the day, Hesperus, a Cat. 3 climb that took the riders up to 8,224 ft. First to the top was Andrew Bajadali (USA) of Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit, followed by Freddy Orlando Piamonte Rodriguez (COL) of EPM-UNE and Matt Cooke (USA) of Team Exergy.

With a break that reached up to more than five minutes, the riders headed toward the second and final Waste Management sprint line in the town of Dolores. Motivated by the cheers of fans lining the sprint, Serghei Tvetcov (MOL) of Team Exergy took the max points, followed by Josh Atkins (NZL) of Bontrager Livestrong Team and Voigt.

After an attempted attack by Nibali and Danielson, a group of 10 riders formed off the front heading into the next KOM of the day – Lizard Head Pass (10,222 ft.) – as the chase group was swallowed back up into the peloton. Danielson pulled away to take the KOM, with Eduard Alexander Beltran Suarez (COL) of EPM-UNE and Nibali following close behind. With only six miles until the next and final KOM at Alta, Danielson and Stetina pulled away to take a 35-second gap over the rest of the break heading over the pass. Results for the KOM were Danielson, Stetina and Beltran.

With less than 10 miles to the finish, the riders stepped up the pace heading into Telluride. The gap was closed, followed by a short-lived attack by the Kings of the race –Edward King (USA) of Liquigas-Cannondale and Benjamin King (USA) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, and the field was brought together again for an all-out sprint to the finish in front of huge crowds of cheering fans. And in his first victory in more than a year, sprinter Farrar pulled out the win.

“This is the first time I’ve done a U.S. stage race since 2009,” added Farrar. “It’s special as an American to race in your own country and have fans that are rooting just for you, for our team. Racing in Colorado is important, and a big bonus for us.”

In a near sweep of the jerseys for Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, Farrar took the Exergy Leader Jersey and the Waste Management Sprint Jersey; Danielson took the Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey; and Stetina claimed Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey. Gavin Mannion (USA) of Bontrager Livestrong Team was awarded the Aquadraat Best Young Rider Jersey.

STAGE 2 Today:
Tuesday, Aug. 21 – Montrose to Crested Butte (159.3 km/99 mi)
Start Time: 11:25 a.m. MT
Estimated Finish Time: 3:20-4:30 p.m. MT
Satellite Feed Time: 5 – 5:15 p.m. MT

At 99 miles, Stage 2 is a mix of old and new. Beginning with a new course for the first 65 miles, the race then visits familiar territory as it passes through Gunnison and retraces the 2011 route up to the grueling finish in Mt. Crested Butte. Beginning at Montrose Pavilion, the stage will begin with a quick neutral lap before the riders head east out of town. As Montrose fades into the distance, the short but challenging climbs over Cerro Summit and Blue Mesa Summit await and make for early launch pads for the breakaway specialists.

As the road levels, giving way to the picturesque twists and turns along the shores of Blue Mesa Reservoir, the riders approach the first Sprint Line of the day in Gunnison, 65 miles away from the start in Montrose. Gunnison will host the race two days in a row, first as a pass-through in Stage 2 and then as the start city for Stage 3. Moving north out of Gunnison breakaway time gaps will shrink, team leaders will move to the front and domestiques will protect and position their leaders. As the riders head into downtown Crested Butte, they’ll face the day’s last Sprint Line. From there it’s a 2-mile climb to the line at Mt. Crested Butte. A dynamic and exciting uphill finish, this short, but steep hill gave Levi Leipheimer the leader’s jersey in 2011.

Quotes from 2012 USA Pro Challenge Stage 1 Press Conference
RIDER QUOTES
Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
On why he returned to race in the U.S.:
“This race wasn’t on my program, but during Tour de France I had a sit-down with Allan Peiper, (program director), who said it might be fun to go back and try again. And I said, yeah why not…it’s been a long time.”

On what it’s like to ride in America’s Race:
“This is the first time I’ve done a U.S. stage race since 2009. It’s special as an American to race in your own country and have fans that are rooting just for you, for our team. Racing in Colorado is important, and a big bonus for us.”

On today’s sprint:
“Today I knew there was a chance for a sprint, but we weren’t riding for the sprint. We wanted to catch some guys napping and get Tom and Pete up the road and get time on the GC. It’s nice that I was able to salvage the day with a win.”

On last year and not winning:
“It’s been horrible to go winless! Sprinters are judged by their wins – second, third and fourth place doesn’t count. Last year was disastrous as far as crashes go; it’s great to get something positive and feel like I’m moving in the right direction.”

On the Tour de France:
“Tour de France was no fun ─ I smashed myself in three days, and spent the rest of the time limping through it. When you’re injured, you can’t accomplish your own goals, can’t even help the team. I was just plugging along to get to Paris. Luckily I didn’t break anything ─ just used a lot of deep tissue massage and chiropractic work to repair all the damage. I think I’m back to whole now and as long as I can stay after the deck, the wins will come.”

On Stage 2 & Crested Butte climbs:
“I think I can hold the Exergy Leader Jersey until about 1 km to go. I haven’t done a Crested Butte finish before, and I have to be realistic. It’s nasty, and I don’t see myself hanging on to it. There are a lot of guys who climb uphill faster than I do.”

Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
On the Durango route:
“I’m pretty familiar with today’s stage, and I told everyone it would be hard start, with a lot of opportunity for us to mess it up. Team Director Charlie Wegelius said let’s take it to race, cause a big split and make some chaos ─ it almost worked! It was a lot of fun and I haven’t had that much fun in a bike race in a long time.”

On the team strategy:
“They (competing teams) didn’t let us go, so we just smashed it in their face. Races like this, no one lets anyone get anywhere ─ you have to create chaos to win. We did that on the first hill, then again on the second part of the climb. You have to take advantage of the chaos you created and hope people make weird decisions. It almost worked; we’ll just try again tomorrow!”

On his experience today:
“Everyone worked hard; in the end we had to attack. It was cool to be out there with Nibali, slicing and dicing up Lizard Head Pass. I thought we had it coming down, but we are too light and the peloton caught us. Bummer it didn’t work out, I thought we were going to win, honestly.”

On the crowds:
“I saw lots of people─ very enthusiastic group in Durango! They love cycling and they understand what we’re doing; the sacrifice and hard work that goes into it all around. The people you saw, they were there because they wanted to be. It’s an awesome community and I’m really proud that Shawn picked it to be a start. I would’ve liked a Red Mountain finish, but I guess you can only have so many up-hills, but maybe we can pick that next year.”

Alessandro Bazzana (ITA) Team Type 1-SANOFI
On the last sprint of the race:
“I studied the finish on paper with the race directors, but still didn’t expect that big downhill drop at the second to last turn, which came in really fast! Everyone was by themselves, but thankfully no crashes.”

On the USA Pro Challenge & Durango Route:
“I didn’t know today’s climbs, but I really enjoyed the race. The crowds were amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that in Europe. I am honored to be here with my team, and my team is honored to be here. We’ll give our best to show what we can do.”

Shawn Hunter CEO of USA Pro Challenge
On Stage 1 of the race:
“This is as good as live theatre gets, congratulations guys! First about Durango – best start I’ve ever seen in any American race. Likewise, we finished as strong in Telluride. This is as good as it gets in terms of community support and leadership. Congratulations Durango and Telluride!”

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