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Colorado UPCC: Stage 1 Podium Predictions

August 4, 2011

Yesterday was Tuesday and exactly three weeks to stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado which starts in Salida and ends at Mount Crested Butte. It’s an interesting stage that includes the first major climb and a short uphill finish. I really like the MapMyRide version of the stage, which includes details on the starting and finishing elevations of the stage’s three climbs rated 2, 1, and 3 using their MapMyFitness categorization methodology. The final climb to Mount Crested Butte, the ski resort just above the quaint town (love the coffee shop plastered with license plates if it is still there), has an elevation gain from 8,907 feet to 9,342 feet in a distance of 2.11 miles; the grade is 3.9%.

Here’s who some uber-fans think can win stage 1 and why.

@roadrider80226, Don Schmertz: Cadel Evans will win Stage 1 because he should win an uphill finish like this one, which is not too steep. He’s won similar races with a short uphill finish.

Robin NeJame: I predict Tom Danielson because he is from Colorado, so he knows these mountains well, and understands what it is like to ride at 11,000 feet. In many mountain stages in Europe, sportscasters talk about the grueling altitude, and I always chuckle, because we have significant altitude in the Rocky Mountains!!!!  Tom also did amazingly well in this year’s Tour de France.  I believe he is in excellent form, and READY for this event! The motivation has to be there too…  I am sure he wants to “bring it home”!

Nathan Mosley: Although there is a large mountain pass to contend with, I think there is too much road afterward to hold off the sprinters.  I think the teams catch any breakaways and an American wins stage one. Tyler Farrar from Garmin-Cervelo.

@Biff_Bruise, David Napoli: hmm… tough one, as it’ll probably be from a breakaway group. Time to throw a dart at the rider list… 😉 [to be transparent, I cut David off here because I was ready to move to stage 2 when I received his Tweet.]

@smthchkvlvt, Chuck Parsons: I can’t tell you who I think will win, only who I’d like to see win — Jens Voigt or Danny Pate. In the late ’90s, I took a semester off from college before I made my final push toward graduation.  I raced mountain bikes at the time. I spent my eight months at Colorado Cyclist in the warehouse, shipping out orders for bikes I could never afford. Colorado Cyclist still sponsored a race team with talent such as a young Michael Creed or Danny Pate. Around the same time, I began renewing my interest in road racing.  Over time I became a fan of the riders in the near-hopeless breakaways, the men who would jump early and suffer hard for hours on end for the slim chance of a stage win.  At their best these breaks had the toughest men of the Tour among them, and more often than not this included Jens Voigt. I really can’t see Jens or Danny winning.  Neither seems well suited for the Crested Butte stage, and both will likely be working for other goals.  But still…to see Jens back at his peak form, or a win for the local hero? Count me in.

Things are getting interesting. Fans see three different types of riders who could win stage 1: GC guys, sprinters, or échappés. Each has it’s merits for a stage like this. There were a few short uphill finishes in the TDF this year which were either won by specialists (Gilbert), break-away guys (Voeckler), GC guys (Cadel) or sprinters (Edvald Boasson-Hagen). I’m linking to the Bicycling maps of the stages, which include interesting commentary, in the bullets that follow.

  • The GC guys because  aside from the time trail in Vail on stage 3 there aren’t a lot of opportunities to pick up time. The Mûr de Bretagne finish which Cadel won in this year’s TDF stage 4 covered 2 kilometers with an average 7% grade. this is shorter and steeper than the finish up to Mt. Crested Butte.
  • The sprinters because it is not a very steep climb to the finish. The climb at the end of Stage 6 that EBH won in Lisieux was 1.5 kilometers long at 6.3% according to what looks like the route log the TDF provides to the teams. I can see a Matt Goss or a Thor in the mix, especially since this UPCC finish is not very steep.
  • The break-away hopefuls because after the descent from Monarch Pass the course runs generally uphill to the finish. Hmm, if a break-away gets enough time, the sprinters’ teams may not be able to catch them. I can see this as a stage Jens would go for, maybe also Timmy Duggan, Ben Jacques-Maynes, Alex Hagman, one of the Columbian teams’ members, and I am probably missing a few others.

Freewheel spin, please, for the ProVéloPassion prologue podium prediction: there will be a break, but only one man will succeed, and the sprinters who can go uphill and the GC guys will be very close behind.

Jens Voigt, ATOC 2011 Stage 2, Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America

  1. Jens Voigt
  2. Tom Danielson
  3. Matt Goss (if he comes)

How can you not pick Jens? Let’s hope he does fine on the descent from Monarch. Oh boy, second guessing creeping in, maybe a guy with better descending skills? And if Fabian is in the leader’s jersey from yesterday, could he be over the line first? It’s a possibility.  That’s why these predictions are so utterly insane and fun. For the second over the line GC guy, I choose Tom Danielson — he has said he’s not so good at short, steep climbs; 3.9% will have to pass as not too steep in his book for him to make second. Matt Goss was second in stage 6 of the TDF, which merits him third place, though he won’t be happy on the lowest step.

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  1. Stage 1 Surprises and Confirmations « ProVéloPassion

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