The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge started on a high note in Colorado Springs when Patrick Gretsch (HTC-Highroad) covered the 5.2-mile (8.3 km) flat-to-descending course from The Garden of the Gods to downtown Colorado Springs in 8 minutes and 27 seconds. Two seconds down was Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) and Brent Bookwalter (BMC) at four seconds down from the winner.
In a sweep for HTC-Highroad, the team took all the jerseys that were awarded today. The Quiznos Leader Jersey was awarded to Gretsch. The Sheets Best Young Rider’s Jersey was claimed by Tejay Van Garderen, who finished at 8 minutes and 35 seconds. The Exergy Most Aggressive Jersey went to Danny Pate. The Smashburger Sprint Jersey and Nissan King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey will be awarded for the first time at the end of stage 1 on Tuesday.
The highest-placed rider from a Continental team was Carlos Alzate (Exergy), who was also the first rider out of the gate. Alzate had a great ride to place 13th at 13 seconds down.
Patrick Gretsch (HTC-Highroad). “It is a really nice feeling. I put a lot of my focus on the Prologue because the next few days are not really built for me. I had really good preparation and I felt really good in training this morning. It felt great out there and I’m super happy to get the win.”
About the sharp left turn. “It was a tricky corner. I think we did it ten times before in training and I did it with less power and slower today than in training. But everyone had to take this corner, not just me. Normally you have so many corners in a Prologue, but today we only had three so it wasn’t really a big problem.”
About HTC-Highroad folding. “It is a sad feeling for everyone. We are all friends and when we realize that it is three months from being over, it isn’t a nice feeling, but we have to look to the future.”
About HTC-Highroad sweeping the jerseys. “I think it shows that we have a strong team here at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, but I also think we have other cards we can play. I think all the other teams have to watch out for us.”
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo). “The crowd was awesome – it was so great today. It’s a Monday afternoon, so I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of times American crowds are great on weekends, but you never know what to expect during the week. Today’s crowd was just awesome. The team has been thinking about this for a while, since we are based in Colorado. Usually that is a disadvantage racing over in Europe, but it was great to finally be able to use that to our advantage today.”
About the sharp left turn. “We were going really fast and it was a bumpy downhill. It was definitely hard to get perspective because it was a blind corner. The key to getting around it is just practicing and knowing what you can and can’t do. I put the time into figuring it out and my biggest goal was not to end my season there. I took my time – it was definitely tricky coming down there in today’s time trial.”
About starting early (11th rider) in prologue. “We thought about the possibility of afternoon thunderstorms coming through because I couldn’t even imagine going down that hill in the rain. So we took a chance and put me first and it paid off. It was nice to get it out of the way first and foremost. When I was heading down I thought about how many times I’d flown down Colorado Blvd., but obviously never at that pace.”
About the rest of the race. “I’m happy with how this is going. I didn’t expect to be on the podium today, but I’m certainly happy to be here. I expected to maybe be up on the podium in Vail. Nobody knows how they’re going to react to this altitude and with the potential for weather it can be gnarly.”
About the altitude. “Altitude is still the focus of the week. For sure it is going to be nasty. Like Andy Schleck said, he’s never been this high before and I don’t think he’s in the minority. There are a lot of people who haven’t been this high before. Altitude is always going to be a factor, even if you’ve been up here for a month. It is always going to be tough and it is always going to hurt.”
About pressure to do well. “I think the biggest pressure always comes from yourself – at least from myself. I do put pressure on myself, but at the same time I spent a lot of time with my family this last week and that helped. I’ve been thinking about this race for a long time, especially after the Tour de France didn’t go that well for me. It is always nice to be under the radar a bit.”
Brent Bookwalter (BMC). “The last kilometer had a little uphill kick to it. I was paying big for my earlier efforts there.”
About his 3rd place. “Look at the class of the time trialists that were stacked up in the later part of the race, I expected to slide down the leaderboard. Obviously, Gretsch is showing time and again that he’s a world-class guy and to be a few seconds off of him, I felt I had a good time. I think I got a little help at the end there, maybe for some of the stronger guys.”
Danny Pate (HTC-Highroad). “I think I’ve been looking at the course for the last 15 years. I always chased cars down Colorado Blvd. I don’t ride Ridge Road very much, I steer away from that. But I do know all the roads from living here forever. It didn’t seem like a huge advantage today, but it was a great course.”
About HTC-Highroad folding. “It is a bummer the team is ending; we all wanted it to continue. Nobody wants it to end. Some of us had contracts and some of us didn’t but that doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day we all wanted to stay. I think the fact that the guys are still riding well shows the class of the whole team and the organization. We come to every race wanting to win. And it’s not because of expectations from anyone else, it’s just that everyone shows up to race and they want to race hard. We have a lot of motivated riders here and hopefully we can ride strong the rest of the week.”
About changing his diet for the altitude. “I wish it was that easy. In the end there is a certain time period that you spend at altitude that can maybe help, but sometimes you spend months at altitude and you still don’t perform as well as other guys. It’s just about doing everything right. You have to line up all the right things – sleep right and eat right – but that is the case with all the races. You just have to take it seriously.”
About the crowds. “It was cool. I thought there was a pretty good turnout starting in The Garden of the Gods. They picked a great course and the fact that they shut down Colorado Blvd. shows the commitment to the race. I think it went really well today so hopefully the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will come back to Colorado Springs.”
Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare) – 4th.. “It was a good race for me – a little bit downhill, yes, but we know the course. The first part was technical and we risked a lot going all out, and the last 5km was just pedal, pedal, pedal! When I saw the start list, I knew that I wanted to be top 10 or top 15, so to get in the top five today was great.”
Cadel Evans (BMC) – 9th. “A little bit tricky course. You’re starting downhill. It wasn’t exactly my thing. I don’t know what the times were, but it wasn’t too bad.
About the travel. Missing on recovering and training as well but it’s not perfect to come here but give me a couple of days and I might be able to go allright. It’s the adaption to altitude that’s the biggest thing.