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With a brave attempt inside the final 3km, Reijnen and Howes managed to hold off the peloton and in the sprint for the win on the opening stage of the USA Pro Challenge, the former emerged as the strongest

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19.08.2014 @ 01:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthCare) to a breakthrough victory when he won the opening stage of the USA Pro Challenge by beating Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) in a two-rider sprint. The pair made use of a highly selective race on a circuit in Aspen to attack with less than 3km to go and managed to hold off the peloton to sprint it out for the victory and the first leader’s jersey in the mountainous race.

 

In the recent Tour of Utah, Kiel Reijnen proved his excellent condition, great climbing legs and fast sprint by taking several top 10 finishes in the mountainous race. Hence, he went into the USA Pro Challenge as a rider to watch and especially the hard circuit for the opening race seemed to suit the American well.

 

Reijnen proved that his results were no fluke when he won that hard opener by showing great tactical awareness and strong legs. Instead of waiting for the final sprint, he launched a late attack with Alex Howes inside the final 3km and that proved to be the winning move.

 

The hard circuit had whittled the peloton down to just around 25 riders and proved to be too much for Elia Viviani whose Cannondale had worked hard all day. With limited domestique resources, the door was open for attacks and Reijnen grabbed the opportunity with both hands before beating Howes in the sprint to take the biggest win of his career.

 

Kiel Reijnen confirmed the excellent condition he showed in the Tour of Utah when he won today’s opening stage of the

 

The fourth edition of the USA Pro Challenge kicked off with a very short circuit race around the city of Aspen. At just 97.6km, the opening stage was a very short one and consisted of three laps of a hilly circuit with two small category 4 climbs. However, there was very little flat terrain and even though the stage was expected to suit the sprinters, it was evident that the heaviest guys would have no chance.

 

The riders took the start in beautiful sunny conditions and as expected lots of them had a plan to attack. Right from the beginning, Jamis, BMC, SmartStop and UnitedHealthCare were among the active teams that tried to force a selection but it was Danny Summerhill (UnitedHealthCare) who created the first significant gap.

 

While the young American was dangling a few metres off the front, more riders attacked and the first to join Summerhill were Joshua Berry (SmartStop), Jonathan Freter (Jelly Belly), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis) and Greg Daniel (Bissell). Later Lachlan Norris (Drapac), Matt Cooke (Jamis) and Luis Davila (Jelly Belly) also made the junction to make it an 8-rider front group.

 

The peloton slowed down a bit and allowed the gap to reach 1.15 before Cannondale showed their intentions. The Italian team wanted to win the stage with Elia Viviani and so hit the front with Cristiano Salerno and Matej Mohoric who started to control the situation.

 

Berry suffered a bit on the early climbs and fell off the pace. After a short while, he dropped back to the peloton which was now 1.40 behind.

 

Cannondale used the flat roads near the finish to take back 20 seconds while Summerhill made an attack on the finishing straight to win the first intermediate sprint ahead of Davila and Daniel. At the bottom of the first climb, Cannondale reduced their deficit to just 55 seconds but as they took it easy on the slopes, the gap went back up to 2.05.

 

Norris proved his superior climbing skills to beat Cooke and Davila in the first KOM sprint and he was again the fastest on the second ascent, holding off Jacques-Maynes, Cooke and Summerhill in the battle for the points.

 

As soon as the terrain got easier, Cannondale dropped the hammer and Ted King, Salerno, Cameron Wurf and Mohoric were now going full gas. When Summerhill won the final intermediate sprint at the second passage of the line, beating Freter and Jacques-Maynes, the advantage was down to less than a minute.

 

When the riders hit the bottom of the first climb, the gap was just 25 seconds and this prompted Jacques-Maynes to attack. Summerhill immediately surrendered and Freter also fell off the pace pretty quickly.

 

The remaining escapees all tried to rejoin Jacques-Maynes, with Davila taking off in lone pursuit of the strong American. He was later joined by Norris and Cooke but their efforts were all in vain and they were all swallowed up by the peloton.

 

Jacques-Maynes’ advantage dropped to just 20 seconds but impressively he managed to reopen it to 35 seconds. He won the penultimate KOM sprint ahead of Norris, Cooke and Davila before the chasers were caught.

 

On the final climb, Jens Voigt (Trek) attacked and he joined Jacques-Maynes just before the top. However, Garmin-Sharp and BMC had now decided to make the race hard and their fast pace made the race explode on the steep slopes. At the top, the peloton had been whittled down to just around 25 riders and they were just 10 seconds behind the leading pair.

 

Jacques-Maynes used his final energy to take maximum points on the climb while Lucas Euser (UHC) moved ahead of Peter Stetina (BMC) to take the third. After the top, Jacques-Maynes dropped back to the peloton while Voigt continued to press on.

 

Janier Acevedo had now taken over the pace-setting for Garmin-Sharp and his fast pace brought Voigt back with 7km to go. The Colombian continued to ride hard, thus preventing any riders from rejoining the peloton.

 

Ben Hermans (BMC) made a short-lived attack on the descent but Acevedo quickly brought it back. When the Colombian swung off at the bottom of a small climb with 4km to go, however, the peloton slowed down which opened the door for new attacks.

 

Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk) exploited the situation to make a move and he quickly got a 15-second advantage. Kiel Reijnen (UHC) and Alex Howes (Garmin.Sharp) took off in pursuit and just after the flamme rouge, they caught the lone Megias.

 

The Spaniard was unable to keep up with the pair who entered the finishing straight side by side. In the closing metres, Ben Hermans (BMC), Carter Jones (Optum) and Matthew Busche (Trek) bridged the gap to Megias but they never reached the front duo. Howes launched a long sprint but was no match to Reijnen who easily past his rival to take the biggest win of his career. Michael Schär (BMC) won the peloton’s sprint for seventh 11 seconds later.

 

With the win, Reijnen also takes the first leader’s jersey but with no bonus seconds he goes into the second stage with equal on time with Howes. However, he faces a tough ask when it comes to defending his position at the top of the standings as the second day offers the first small uphill finish.  After a descending first part, the riders will go up the McClure and Kebler passes before they hit the bottom of the short, steep ramp to the finish on Mount Crested Butte.

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