– Photos by Darrell Parks, words provided by USA Pro Challenge –
“I was really excited yesterday after I stole some time from Tejay van Garderen and was able to keep close to Levi Leipheimer. It was an amazing race, straight to finish,” said Vande Velde. “The opportunity to participate in a race like this, of this caliber is a beautiful thing. As long as there are races like the USA Pro Challenge in America, I want to race as long as I can. The crowds are so positive and so happy.”
American Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda Named Champion of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge
BMC Racing Team Rider Taylor Phinney Proves Time Is on his Side by Winning the Individual Time Trial
Denver (Aug. 26, 2012) – In a battle between the seasoned veterans and the newcomers, Stage 7 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge came down to a matter of seconds in the Individual Time Trial that saw veteran Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda take home the overall win. In the “race of truth,” Taylor Phinney (USA) of BMC Racing Team put up an impressive time of 17’25”50 to claim the final stage win of 2012 in front of a monumental crowd in downtown Denver. Vande Velde took second in the stage, followed by Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team. In the overall, van Garderen took second, followed by Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
After a tough week of racing over mountains at high altitude and with the top-10 riders only separated by about 52 seconds, the Stage 7 Individual Time Trial was anyone’s race. By removing the team factor, the flat and fast course in downtown was a tough individual test and a fight for the General Classification.
Using many of the same roads as the final Denver finish circuits of 2011, the 9.5m/15.3km course started and ended near the State Capitol Building in Denver’s Civic Center Park. The riders first faced a familiar out-and-back section along Speer Blvd. and Colfax Ave., with a slight detour through the entertainment district along Larimer St. Returning toward the start area on Colfax, they turned north to 17th Ave. to a long section of straight road, eventually delivering them to City Park. A short, but technical run through the park returned the riders to 17th Ave., allowing the huge crowds of spectators to see their favorite riders pass by again. Two quick turns put the riders back on Broadway headed south to the finish line adjacent to Civic Center Park.
With each rider besting the man before him, U.S. National Time Trial Champion Dave Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda posted the first time that stuck at 18’10”74, which would eventually put him in tenth place overall. That was until Phinney, who hit the block 26th today, and rode at an average speed of 32.7 mph, crossed the line with a 17’25”50, a time that would stick for the rest of the day and give him the final stage win of 2012.
Jens Voigt – ever the crowd favorite.
“I’m beyond excited to win today. It’s a great honor to win in the final stage of the USA Pro Challenge,” said Phinney. “This was one of the best weekends of my life. Coming into Boulder the crowds just kept getting bigger and bigger; I was getting teary-eyed.”
For most of the day the top-3 would be Phinney, Peter Velits (SVK) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Tom Zirbel (USA) of Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies. That was until Tom Danielson (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda logged a time of 17’54”62 to take third and knock Zirbel down to fourth.
With the day coming to a close and the top-ranked riders getting ready to head out on their test against the clock, the results between Vande Velde, van Garderen and Leipheimer at the splits were close and everyone was watching to see who would take the win. In the end Vande Velde finished ahead of the other two GC contenders to take home the overall win.
Last year’s fifth place finisher George Hincapie (USA) of BMC Racing Team, who is a former three-time national road champion and holds the record for participating in the most Tour de France races (17), capped off his professional cycling career today with the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.
“I really felt the emotion from the crowd and this is what’s gotten me through the last several years,” said Hincapie. “The support from all of you is amazing and I’m so happy for this to be my last race ever.
The final jerseys of the 2012 race were awarded this afternoon under blue skies in downtown Denver. Vande Velde re-claimed the Exergy Leader Jersey. Several other jersey winners remained unchanged, with Jens Voigt (GER) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek retaining the Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey (no points were awarded today), Tyler Farrar (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda the Waste Management Sprint Jersey and Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) of Bontrager Livestrong Team the Aquadraat Best Young Rider Jersey. Tom Danielson (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda was awarded the Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for his overall effort throughout the week.
For full results, archived footage, GPS data, course information, race play-by-play and more, please visit the official race website www.prochallenge.com.
Taylor Phinney (USA) – BMC Racing Team
On his Stage 7 win:
“A hometown win is always a beautiful thing. The time trial has been my carrot the whole week that I was chasing, other than trying to get the Exergy Leader Jersey. I struggled in the first few stages. I nearly pulled the plug on Aspen, but pulled through and kept getting better and better. I had an amazing time in Boulder; great riding with my friend Tejay van Garderen and all the BMC teammates. I came today and kept my speed up high. I did everything I could do to win it. And I had blazing fast Christian Vande Velde to compete with! I’m beyond excited to win today. It’s a great honor to win in the final stage of the USA Pro Challenge.
On his USA Pro Challenge experience:
“This was one of the best weekends of my life. Coming into Boulder the crowds just kept getting bigger and bigger; I was getting teary-eyed. I passed my high school twice yesterday. Yesterday was so special for me. We did what we had to do to be the strongest team and try to control the race. Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda really threw everything they had and made us work. But at the end of the day, we gave it our best shot. I’m really proud of my team, and really proud of Tejay van Garderen. He turned into a true leader and has grown a huge fan base. Only thing I heard riding in the front was the crowd saying ‘go Tejay’! It’s really special to have fans unite around a new young cyclist. I had a blast working for him. To win today was amazing. Only way it would’ve been better is if I won the Exergy Leader Jersey, but we have time on our side.”
On why Americans dominate this race:
“The reason you see American’s on the podium is because we are motivated to do well here. It’s not about Europeans not performing, it’s about American’s stepping up their game. I dug deep into myself to earn the front lead. We spend so much time away from home and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing to race on these big American roads.”
Christian Vande Velde (USA)
On winning the Exergy Leader Jersey:
“Today I had a lot of confidence. Much more than other people had in me. Winning really put the feather in my cap. I felt good coming out of the Tour of Utah. I was really excited yesterday after I stole some time from Tejay van Garderen and was able to keep close to Levi Leipheimer. It was an amazing race, straight to finish. Tom Danielson was ripping it for his alma mater! It was a great race for Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda and the Exergy Leader Jersey really put the cherry on top.”
On his team strategy:
“From the beginning, we wanted to come into this with guns blazing. It wasn’t hard to talk Tom Danielson into doing that in Durango. He did the heavy lifting for me. It took me a couple of days to get my form down, but the team picked up the slack, and then I just started to flow. BMC was the stronger team, and made everything as brutal as possible. But we couldn’t let them dictate, so we threw everything we had at them.”
On what to expect from him in 2013:
“I’ve had a lot of success. I don’t’ want to beat a dead horse, but it’s a lot of sacrifice to live in Europe. Levi and I are neighbors. The opportunity to participate in a race like this, of this caliber is a beautiful thing. As long as there are races like the USA Pro Challenge in America, I want to race as long as I can. The crowds are so positive and so happy. They see us on TV, and then in person, and they freak! It’s invigorating. I think that’s why there aren’t as many Europeans racing here, it’s demanding and hard to race away from home. Even though America is much better than their country! What’s next? I’m very fortunate to lead a great team, Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, and I love having that pressure on my shoulders. There’s definitely more to come.”
Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing Team
On his motivation:
“I really wanted to win. After the Olympics I was tired, but I had this on my mind and it kept me focused and on my bike. I really wanted this. This is George Hincapie’s last race, and I wanted to send him off with a victory. I’m proud of everything we did. Like Levi said, this race couldn’t have been more dramatic. The Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda team really threw everything they had at us and Christian Vande Velde was amazing this week.”
On his expectations for Christian Vande Velde:
“He was in second place overall last year, so you can’t rule him out. He almost won in Crested Butte. He always performs well after he finishes a tour. If he did a Grand Tour after this he’d probably win. I didn’t underestimate him. Especially with how Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda rode; they had a lot of confidence in themselves and it showed.”
Levi Leipheimer (USA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
On his Pro Challenge experience:
“I look at this race from an outside perspective. I don’t think it couldn’t have been any more exciting or dramatic. The leads changed daily, and the jersey’s switched back and forth. It’s the same three guys battling for overall as it was last year. We are building a story here. When I was 13 years old I read about the Coors Classic, and made me want to ride. I think this race accomplishes the same thing. I hope we are inspiring the next generation of cyclists through the USA Pro Challenge.”
On Stage 7 and Flagstaff:
“I did drop my chain on today’s time trial, but it miraculously fell back on. I don’t think I lost much time. I think I did fine today, but it doesn’t compare to how I performed at Flagstaff. I was so proud to be on the podium, and proud to have given it my all. At Flagstaff I really wore my heart on my sleeve. I was out of breath for ten minutes. It was the result of all the energy I felt, and the fans who love the sport. They spent hours on the road, waiting for us to come by for a split second. It’s hard to describe; there were over 100,000 people screaming. It’s fantastic. It’s why I do what I do, and why I love the sport.”
On the Pro Challenge route:
“We all want a course that suits our strength. I hope there will be a big mountaintop finish. I think the organizer and the sponsors were savvy in designing a course that kept it close and dramatic. And it all came down to the last day. That’s important because it captivates fans and keeps them interested.”
Tom Danielson (USA) – Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
On winning the Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey in his home state of Colorado:
“After looking at our performance in the Pro Challenge last year, our team decided to take a different strategy. On paper, Tyler Farrar is the best sprinter and I was the best climber. To win I had to go hard to set Tyler up for a strong result in Denver. I wanted to make sure he was in a great position and stayed relaxed, so I did something I never do. I raced both fearless and careless, and was super-aggressive. It was amazing to ride passes that I rode in training. In Aspen (his Stage 3 win), I really gave it my all and riding that last 70K with David Zabriskie was amazing. Overall this race has been the best moment of my career with Tyler Farrar’s win, and Christian Vande Velde getting it done against all odds. To do it in Colorado with our team has so many personal ties. I’m so happy to win and to have won it in a different way.”
On his team:
“What happened in this race was we came together. We looked each other in the eye and said we are going to make a plan and stick to it. We focused on the climb. We knew how to do that and set aside time for Christian. It was a hard course to do what we did. One hundred people finished this race and we can take pride in being responsible for that. We came together as a team, finished our objective and believed in ourselves. Not once did Christian second guess himself. He knew he could do it and he did.”
Tyler Farrar (USA) – Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
On securing the Waste Management Sprint Jersey:
“I really can’t ask for more. Stage 2 was a bonus and to win the Waste Management Sprint Jersey is even better. I was very aggressive and it couldn’t have worked out better. I’m very happy with the results.”
Shawn Hunter – CEO, USA Pro Cycling Challenge
On the 2012 USA Pro Challenge:
“I want to thank you guys. We have some of the best cyclists in the world racing in Colorado. I want to thank Medalist, the athletes and Jim Birrell (race director). This is the best course I’ve ever seen. This is one of the biggest stage races in the history of our country. We call this America’s race, and it really is. The crowds were even bigger than they were last year; Golden to Boulder was pretty magical. I can’t wait for 2013 and we are already talking about routes.”
On the financial future of the race:
“We’ve invested tens of millions of dollars in this race and we will not break even for a few years. It’s taken a lot of financial support, patience and vision. This week was a great start towards being profitable. There’s never been a better time to invest in the sport, especially with these winner’s today. We are blessed in America to have 3 great races: the Tour of Utah, the Tour of California and now the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. I look forward to seeing everyone in 2013.”
• First Place – Taylor Phinney (USA) of BMC Racing Team
• Second Place – Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
• Third Place – Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team
• First Place – Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
• Second Place – Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team
• Third Place – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep
• Exergy Leader Jersey – Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
• Waste Management Sprint Jersey – Tyler Farrar (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda
• Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey – Jens Voigt (GER) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
• Aquadraat Best Young Rider Jersey – Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) of Bontrager Livestrong Team
• Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey (awarded for overall effort throughout the week) – Tom Danielson (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda