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USA Pro Challenge “surprise favorites”

August 20, 2012

[updated 8/20/12]

The “surprise favorite.” The dark horse. These are the competitors that aren’t favored to win, but just might pull off a podium performance.

The favorites for a top three overall in the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge are Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma–Quick-Step), Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson of Garmin-Sharp, Cadel Evans (BMC), and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale). Nibali said in the opening press conference that the Europeans usually don’t do well at altitude; we’ll find out in a few days if he was sandbagging or not.

Matthew Busche (Radioshack-Nissan-Trek), Johann Tschopp (BMC Racing Team), Leopold Koenig (Team NetApp), l to r, 2nd, 1st, 3d in 2012 Tour of Utah

The Tour of Utah ended with a surprise favorite podium of Johann Tschopp (BMC), Matthew Busche (Radioshack-Nissan-Trek), and Leopold Koenig. The favorites may just deliver great results in Colorado. Then again, some surprise favorites may rise to the top.

A favorite for Colorado should be a good climber with great time trial skills. But anything can happen in a race and if those saying Flagstaff on Stage 6 will be the decisive finish, a great climber with good time trial skills could land on the podium in Denver. So this list of surprise favorites includes guys who could be called all-arounders as well as guys known to go fast uphill.

Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) after Stage1 USA Pro Challenge sign-in

Surprise favorites for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge include three riders on Radioshack-Nissan-Trek: Andreas Kloden, Jakob Fuglsang, and Matthew Busche. Add to the list Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) and Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong). Kiel Reijnen (Team Type 1) can climb well, sprint well in a selective group, and deliver a good time trial and could factor in the GC by the final day. If he’s not working for Liquigas-Cannondale teammate Nibali, Timmy Duggan could do well, too, as his time trialing skills are pretty strong.

Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) at the Tour of the Gila

Sutherland is a good time trialist and showed in Utah that he’s climbing well. A top three by Sutherland might not be the result his team has been planning for.

In Utah sports director Mike Tamayo said regarding the Colorado race, “I think in general as a team we know that our strengths come in the stages versus the overall, versus racing for GC. So that’s what we’ve been looking at, the individual stages.” The team has brought riders that had been racing or training at altitude in July. “Half of the squad went to Qinghai Lake and half the squad went to Austria,” Tamayo said. “And then both the squads met together here in Utah and then we go to Colorado. So it’s a build-up into Utah/ Colorado and it’s all been at altitude.”

Matthew Busche (Radioshack-Nissan-Trek) finishes the Tour of Utah Stage 6 with the yellow jersey group

Busche said before the start of Stage 1 in Durango that he hopes he’s recovered well from his efforts in Utah and aims to “continue what I did at Utah here.” When asked if his ride in Utah was a surprise, Busche replied, “I don’t know if surprise is the proper word. I know when I’m on good form I can ride well in the mountains and in a tough race like that. I was very happy with the result and I believed I could be there and I knew prior to the race my sensations were really good on the bike. I don’t know if it was so much as a surprise but not necessarily expected at the same time.”  Busche rated his time trialing skills as above average and added, “I sometimes can pull out a really good time trial, and usually I can time trial good enough to at least hopefully stay in contention.”

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