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USAPC12 St.3: Tommy D Delivers!

Photo Report: PEZ Photog Darrell Parks was in the thick of it again, capturing the best images we’ve seen so far, as Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda put in motion a grand plan for glory, and Tom Danielson finished it off solo in Aspen.

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

King of the Mountains Tom Danielson of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda Claims Stage 3 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge
Teammate Christian Vande Velde Takes Overall Lead Heading into Fourth Day of Racing

Aspen (Aug. 22, 2012) – In an epic day of racing, Stage 3 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge came to a close with Colorado-resident Tom Danielson (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda taking a solo breakaway to the finish line in Aspen. With the peloton following close behind, Damiano Caruso (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale claimed second in the stage and Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek took third on a course packed with cheering fans. And in a very close fight for the GC, Danielson’s Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda teammate Christian Vande Velde (USA) claimed the Exergy Leader Jersey.

“I’m incredibly proud of the team and what we did today, and every day,” said Vande Velde. “Especially with how aggressive we’ve been. If nothing else, it has been a rewarding and fruitful experience.”

Stage 3 took the riders on a 130.6 mile ride from Gunnison to downtown Aspen, facing them with the two epic passes of Cottonwood and Independence Pass. After rolling out of a neutral start in Gunnison, the riders showed they were ready to compete, immediately reaching speeds of 35 mph. With a breakaway of about 18 riders forming leading into the first Waste Management sprint in Almont, the results were Jesse Anthony (USA) of Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, Kiel Reijnen (USA) of Team Type 1-SANOFI and Serghei Tvetcov (MOL) of Team Exergy, respectively.

The BMC Racing Team led the front of the field, riding hard and trying to make sure the break didn’t get too far up the road as the riders approached the first Nissan KOM of the day – Cat. 3 Taylor Park (9,526 ft.). Camilo Castiblanco (COL) of EPM-UNE took max points, followed by Team Exergy riders Serghei Tvetcov (MOL) and Matt Cooke (USA).

As the riders approached the second KOM of the day – Cat. 1 Cottonwood Pass (12,126 ft.) – there was some reshuffling in the break with Anthony trying to make a move, getting caught and Tvetcov, Reijnen and Valerio Agnoli (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale all dropping back to the peloton.

With 1 km to go until reaching Cottonwood Pass, the break dwindled to only five riders, including Danielson, Fabio Aru (ITA) of Astana Pro Team, Dave Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, Francisco Jarley Colorado Hernandez (COL) of EPM-UNE and Jeffry Louder (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. Colorado Hernandez reached the top of the Pass first, followed by Danielson and Zabriskie. And as things started to settle down after the KOM, Michael Friedman (USA) of Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies joined the break.

At the next Waste Management sprint in Buena Vista, Zabriskie crossed the line first, followed by Louder and Danielson. Shortly after, riders started to fall off the break and get absorbed back into the peloton. First it was Aru and Friedman. Then, after doing a good part of the work all day, Zabriskie, followed quickly by Louder.

With only two riders left into the break heading toward the final KOM of the day – Cat. 1 Independence Pass (12,095 ft.) – tensions started to grow, but Danielson attacked in advance of the KOM setting him up to take max points and secure the Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey for another day. He was followed by Colorado and Freddy Orlando Piamonte Rodriguez (COL) of EPM-UNE as a wall of enthusiastic fans cheered them on at the top of the climb.

“That was awesome! Since I’m a Colorado guy, there’s a lot of responsibility there,” said Danielson. “I’ve dreamed about going over Independence Pass and for it to come true the way it did is something I’ll never forget.”

With Danielson now on a solo mission headed straight for the finish in Aspen, the peloton took chase and narrowed the gap significantly to only a matter of seconds, but it wasn’t enough to catch the Colorado resident, and Danielson took the stage win.

“Today was as good as it gets when it comes to elite professional bike racing,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge. “The riders kept us on the edge of our seats and the massive crowds along the route and at the top of the passes really set the stage for the race.”

For the jerseys, Vande Velde took the Exergy Leader Jersey. Caruso claimed the Waste Management Sprint Jersey. Danielson held onto the Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey. Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) of Bontrager Livestrong Team kept the Aquadraat Best Young Rider Jersey. Colorado Hernandez was awarded the Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for his effort on the climbs.

Rider Quotes
Tom Danielson (USA) – Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
On the last 2k:
“At 2K I didn’t think I was going to win. What was going through my mind? I heard my wife’s voice saying ‘don’t look back!’ All I wanted to do was look back, and I didn’t. So I guess those are words to for young riders to live by – when you want to win, don’t look back.”

On the team plan:
“Today we came up with a plan, but you’ve got to have the legs to do it; our team’s pretty strong, so it was really fun to pull it off. Today I bet no one thought it would work, but we did it. The biggest thing was believing in ourselves as a team. Everybody on the team put their hand in today, and we did it. It doesn’t happen often, so it’s very cool to have the team come together.”

On Dave Zabriskie:
“Today was a lot of fun. Dave Zabriskie pulled like a freight train today. Hats off to Roby (team car driver) for convincing Dave and I to keep going in the valley! Dave did what he does, basically a 70 km time trial after Cottonwood Pass. Dave is a bad, bad man. I owe my victory to him and the team today.”

On his season:
“This is just a bad-ass race, and we’re all happy to be here. Whatever happened last year, that’s then. It’s part of being a bike racer ─ Levi broke his leg last year. Today is a new day, a new bike race, and a new way to win.”

On Independence Pass:
“That was awesome! Since I’m a Colorado guy, there’s a lot of responsibility there. It’s a dream come true. I’ve dreamed about going over Independence Pass. For it to come true the way it did, it’s something I’ll never forget. Honestly, that was my finish line. After Independence Pass, I thought, only 35K to go (laughs). It was such a dream to see fans screaming and running next to me. I wanted to give everyone a high five, but had to keep my hands on the handlebars!”

Christian Vande Velde (USA) – Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
On winning the Exergy Leader Jersey:
“I didn’t even think about that “racing bonus” with the team. It was a bonus to be causing mayhem with the team, and we focused on setting Tom up for the breakaway. I’m incredibly proud of the team and what we did today, and every day. Especially with how aggressive we’ve been. If nothing else, it has been a rewarding and fruitful experience.”

On the breakaway and his team:
“Dave Zabriskie usually doesn’t bring that much enthusiasm. He’s three for three in breakaways! He threw up on himself on the first day. Today up there again, and he buried himself for Tom. I can’t say enough about teammates like that who are so damn strong they are doing the lion’s share. This is a team sport. Without our teammates, there’s no way we’d be here now. When it works out, it’s quite a beautiful thing.”

On Stage 4 expectations:
“It’s been such a hard day of racing, and we are exhausted with these two mountain passes. One way or another, it’s going to be hard. I don’t know who will throw spin in the works.”

On Stage 2 results and the commissaire’s decision:
“It has nothing to do with me. It’s the commissaire’s decision. Sometimes it works in your favor, and sometimes it doesn’t. You could be within spitting distance and lose 12 seconds ─ that’s just part of bike racing. It’s their decision, and I respect that.”

Jim Birrell – Race Director, USA Pro Challenge
On why Christian Vande Velde received the yellow jersey over Tejay van Garderen:
“Today, both Tejay and Christian were tied on overall time, and on points. For the tiebreak, we awarded whoever crossed the finish line first, which is why the jersey switched. Christian came in 10th today, and Tejay in 12th.”

Results Stage 2
2 43 CARUSO Damiano LIQ ITA 02″
3 32 FUGLSANG Jakob RNT DEN ‘ ‘
4 138 *MANNION Gavin BLS USA ‘ ‘
5 51 BRAJKOVIC Janez AST SLO ‘ ‘
6 35 KLЦDEN Andreas RNT GER ‘ ‘
7 158 *GOMEZ PINEDA Javier Eduardo EPM COL ‘ ‘
8 62 ROVNY Ivan RVL RUS ‘ ‘
9 16 VANDEVELDE Christian GRS USA ‘ ‘
10 111 BALDWIN Christopher BPC USA ‘ ‘
11 52 KREUZIGER Roman AST CZE P:10″ ‘ ‘

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION After Stage 3 – Gunnison to Aspen
WEDNESDAY, 22, 2012
1 16 VANDEVELDE Christian GRS USA 13h37’20” 00″
2 28 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC USA ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
3 62 ROVNY Ivan RVL RUS 13h37’26” 06″
4 1 LEIPHEIMER Levi OPQ USA 13h37’28” 08″
5 154 RINCON DIAZ Ramiro EPM COL ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
6 11 DANIELSON Tom GRS USA 13h37’30” 10″
7 43 CARUSO Damiano LIQ ITA 13h37’32” 12″
8 51 BRAJKOVIC Janez AST SLO ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
9 31 HORNER Christopher RNT USA ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
10 93 EUSER Lucas SPI USA ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
11 36 BUSCHE Matthew RNT USA ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

STAGE 4 Today:
Thursday, Aug. 23 – Aspen to Beaver Creek (156.5 km/97.2 mi)
Start Time: 11:35 a.m. MT
Estimated Finish Time: 3:25-4:35 p.m. MT
Satellite Feed Time: 5 – 5:15 p.m. MT

Elevation is the main story for Stage 4 because with much of the course above 9,000 ft., it will be anything but easy. Those who conquered Independence Pass on Stage 3 will see it again very early in Stage 4, with the climb starting almost immediately after several neutral start laps in downtown Aspen. Unlike the previous day, the climb may not decide the winner, but will be an ideal launching point for a breakaway or possibly an overall contender to lose time.

Anyone who is brave enough to attack over Independence Pass will be faced with more than 75 miles of racing at altitude. Along the way they will compete for a sprint in the historic town of Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,152 ft. Next on the agenda will be the climb over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass (10,424 ft.) before descending into Minturn and tackling the rolling run toward the final climb to Beaver Creek. Passing through the 2011 start city of Avon, the peloton will be faced by a stiff 2.5-mile climb that rises almost 1,000 ft. to the ski resort of Beaver Creek. Although not the fiercest climb on the route, the finale is sure to produce exciting racing, especially among those fighting for the overall lead.

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