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Colorado UPCC: Stage 2 Podium Predictions

August 9, 2011

Wow, the queen stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UPCC) arrives on August 24th.

Independence Pass, Colorado 12,095 feet (photo by Steephill TV)

So much can happen. Check out the video of the stage.

The GC contenders could be wary of maxing themselves out before the Vail time trial, the stage which may decide the final podium. They might be unsure of how much rope they have to burn by putting in attacks at 12,000 feet. If these concerns carry the day for the GC contenders, they will go over both passes and descend into the Aspen finish together — assuming Andy Schleck hangs on during the descent. In this GC-riders-lay-low-scenario, someone from a break-away could win, someone who excels at altitude and drops his mates or compadres on Independence Pass. If one of the GC guys is riding stronger than the others, he could be the one to drop others there and win the stage. Ifs, ifs, ifs….

Here’s what a selection of fans and one of the experts from Triple Crankset believe is the answer to who can win stage 2.

@triplecrankset, www.triplecrankset.com, Len Basobas: The Queen Stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will definitely favor the climbers and adventurous breakaway specialists. Riders will already have a Prologue and Stage 1 under their belts to acclimate themselves to the thin Colorado air, but with the elevation gains on both Cottonwood and Independence pass local riders like Tom Danielson, Peter Stetina (Team Garmin-Cervelo) and Tim Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) will certainly carry a distinct advantage over the favored Schleck brothers and Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

Two riders who will also play a role in the unfolding drama on Stage 2 are the young American, Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), who held the maillot à pois rouges for one stage at this year’s Tour de France, and the Netherlands’ Robert Gesink (Rabobank), who has previously excelled on American soil and is looking for a bit of redemption after a disappointing Tour.

How it may possibly play out: without a mountain top finish, look for an early break to get off the front.  If Van Garderen and Gesink are in the break, look for Van Garderen to make a late move on the descent into Aspen to take the win.

@Biff_Bruise, David Napoli: a climber who can descend real well (I’ve done it)…hmm – I’ll go out on a limb on this one… @tomdanielson.I’ll say he’ll create a gap up Independence Pass and maintain enough down the narrow descent.

Tom Danielson at home after the 2011 TDF (by Mary Topping)

@JonesWolf, Jordan Jones: Stage 2 is where we’ll see separation in the field and get a look at who will contend for the overall victory.  Two mountain passes, dirt riding, and a fast final descent into Aspen will test the riders in a number of ways. Tom Danielson has won the Mount Evans ascent and holds the record up Lookout Mtn. Will he continue his state domination while adding in the world’s best riders? I think his 9th place at the TDF and his focus on the race shows that he will come through. Look for him to take Stage 2 as part of his plan for overall victory.

Julie Morales: I’m picking Andy Schleck. First, he’s gotta be steaming for a second chance to beat Cadel overall–and that’s great motivation. Second, he’s got brother Frank to help him up the 12,000 foot peaks.  And who’s better than a brother to be at your side in the high mountains. Third, he won on the Galibier on Stage 18 of the Tour de France –which is the most similiar of all the stages in Le Tour to our USA Procycling Challenge tour’s Queen Stage. Stage 18 was the highest stage of Le Tour with the Col d’ Agnel at 9002 feet, the Col d’Izoard at 7742 feet, and then the finish on the Col du Galibier at 8677 feet. Yep, Cottonwood and Independence are both 3000 to 4500 feet higher than those peaks but that will be part of the fun!  Allez Allez Andy!!

Analysis

Two votes for Danielson, one for TJ, and one for Andy. Since I’ve already picked two Leopards, I’ll need to look to a different team for stage 2. This reduces the field of possible winners by a whopping 6%. You can tell this one isn’t easy.

The hours I’ve spent studying the effects of altitude on athletic performance are sending me to a winner that we suspect may have an advantage in thinner air. We know from the interview with Tom Danielson that he has been targeting the UPCC to win it. As much as he might love to be first over Independence Pass, I think he’ll mark his rivals on stage 2 and really go for it during the stage 3 time trial. We’ll need to watch @RorySutherland1 of UnitedHealthcare; he’s been training hard in Colorado at altitude. I was about to say that I don’t think the GC contenders will let Gesink get away, but at 12,000 feet they might not have a choice if Gesink can fly.

Who could win from a break-away? History calls Peter Stetina — both his dad Dale and his uncle Wayne have won the Coors Classic. In 2010 Peter won the MTB division of the Bob Cook Memorial-Mount Evans race. A strong climber, he could be riding to support Danielson. TJ showed in the Tour de France that he can climb well. Can Peter or TJ outclimb Timmy Duggan who has tweeted about moto-pacing on dirt behind a Ford F-150? Timmy was raised at the same altitude as Peter, in Boulder.  He looked great in a break-away in this year’s USA road championship race; his performance there also shows he can race well in the heat — we could see hot weather in late August.

After studying up a bit on the Antioquia Indeportes and EPM-UNE Colombian teams who will participate in the UPCC, I believe there will be at least two riders between these two teams who will be in the break. Colombia is home to peaks that reach up to 18,000 feet and notable pro-cyclists Mauricio Soler, Lucho Herrera (won the 1987 Vuelta a España), Fabio Parra (third at the 1988 Tour) and Santiago Botero.

Oscar Sevilla wins stage 9 of 2011 Vuelta a Columbia (photo by Luis Barbosa)

Kirk Flinte wrote on the Hincapie Sportswear blog after visiting with the Antioquia team: “The biggest thing I learned in my time with the riders is why Colombians are famous for their climbing abilities. There is not a single flat road in the whole region of Antioquia. Every inch of paved road is on an incline. And most of it’s not gentle five percent grade hills. We’re talking kilometers of 10%+ climbing.”

Kirk referred to Janier Acevedo as team Antioquia’s “secret weapon” at the UPCC; he did well in this June’s Vuelta a Colombia, and his teammate Oscar Sevilla Ribera (ESP) won two stages. Walter Pedraza of EPM-UNE won the first road stage of the 2011 Vuelta a Colombia. His teammate Giovanni Manuel Baez finished second overall. Assuming a guy from the break wins, a Colombian — or a Spanish member of a Colombian team — has to stand on the podium for stage 2.

ProVéloPassion prediction for Stage 2 podium:

Timmy Duggan leads break in 2011 USA Championships (by Eddie Helton Photography)

  1. Timmy Duggan (Team Liquigas-Cannondale)
  2. Janier Acevedo or Oscar Sevilla Ribera (Team Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antioquia)
  3. Alex Hagman (Team Jelly Belly)

OK, maybe I’m a bit of a softie on the young Americans. But if Tom Danielson wants to win the UPCC real bad, Timmy Duggan is right up there with him and the GC guys might not chase him. Timmy is comfortable at home, which gives him an edge over the Columbians. Alex Hagman, if he races, lives in Colorado, so he can also master the altitude.

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5 Comments
  1. Greg Fitzsimmons permalink

    Great story, Mary!

  2. AspenChamber permalink

    We are so excited for the Queen Stage in Aspen.

    • @AspenChamber: So happy you read the piece! It is going to be an amazing show. After talking today with the Columbian team at the Tour of Utah, I am more convinced they and EPM-UNE are going to be a big factor in the UPCC.

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