The Garmin-Sharp team came out swinging for the fences at stage 1 of the USA Pro Challenge when they stack the early break forcing the pace until the finish.
“I’m pretty familiar with today’s stage, and I told everyone it would be hard start, with a lot of opportunity for us to mess it up. Team Director Charlie Wegelius said let’s take it to race, cause a big split and make some chaos ─ it almost worked! It was a lot of fun and I haven’t had that much fun in a bike race in a long time.” Tom Danielson said after the stage.
In his hometown of Durango, Danielson made his first attack at the bottom of an uncategorized climb at kilometer zero. Chaos ruled as Danielson was joined first by two teammates and soon other riders. Once the dust settled 25 kilometers later, a group of 22 riders was off the front.
“They (competing teams) didn’t let us go, so we just smashed it in their face. Races like this, no one lets anyone get anywhere ─ you have to create chaos to win.” Danielson said after the race.” We did that on the first hill, then again on the second part of the climb. You have to take advantage of the chaos you created and hope people make weird decisions.”
With Danielson off the front were three teammates, David Zabriskie, Peter Stetina and Lachlan Morton, Vincenzo Nibali and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale) and more. With four strong riders in the break, the onus was on Garmin-Sharp to set the pace and they managed to push the pace up to five minutes even though a few were sitting on. One rider that was not happy with dead weight was Nibali who attacked at the bottom of the first KOM, Lizard Head Pass. Danielson happily jumped on as the break splintered.
Though the duo was joined by eight others, but with the field charging and closing the gap, Danielson and Stetina went off together. With 13 km to go, downhill to the finish, the pair had 35 seconds on the field. Too small a gap to stick.
“Everyone worked hard; in the end we had to attack. It was cool to be out there with Nibali, slicing and dicing up Lizard Head Pass. I thought we had it coming down, but we are too light and the peloton caught us. Bummer it didn’t work out, I thought we were going to win, honestly.” Danielson commented.
Though the break did not stick, the team still managed to take the win when Tyler Farrar easily outsprinted the 57-rider field.
“Today I knew there was a chance for a sprint, but we weren’t riding for the sprint. We wanted to catch some guys napping and get Tom and Pete up the road and get time on the GC. It’s nice that I was able to salvage the day with a win.” Farrar said.
“It almost worked; we’ll just try again tomorrow!” Danielson concluded.
Farrar is realistic about his chances of defending the leader’s jersey on the next stage with its final 2-mile climb to the line at Mt. Crested Butte. “I think I can hold the Exergy leader Jersey until about 1 km to go. I haven’t done a Crested Butte finish before, and I have to be realistic. It’s nasty, and I don’t see myself hanging on to it. There are a lot of guys who climb uphill faster than I do.”
Farrar also holds the sprint jersey while Danielson leads the KOM classification. Stetina was awarded the most aggressive jersey.