It’s here, the day that has been on the minds of many riders and fans, The Queen Stage of the USA Pro Challenge that not only finishes in Boulder, Colorado but on the Flagstaff climb.
Last night, Peter Stetina (Gamin-Sharp) tweeted, “Tomorrow is the day I’ve dreamed of since riding up ‘flag as a 13 year old.”
The ‘flag or Flagstaff Mountain is the dramatic finale to the 165.5-km stage 6 which ends with the 5.6-km vertical, dramatic climb up Flagstaff to the finish line at Sunrise Amphitheater.
The racing starts at 11:10 am MT, see How to Follow USA Pro Challenge via Social Media, Web, TV
To make the day even more dramatic, the general classification (GC) is unbelievably tight. Yellow jersey Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) is tied on time with Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp). Defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Baby Giro winner Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong), Andreas Klöden and Chris Horner (Radioshack-Nissan) and two more from Garmin-Sharp, Tom Danielson and Stetina, are just some of the riders that are within one minute of van Garderen.
“It will be a big showdown between Christian, Levi, me Rovny and anyone else. It’s the Queen Stage so it will be interesting.” van Garderen said.
The battle will be fierce. This is the day to not only try to take the lead but gain as much time as possible on van Garderen before the last stage, the time trial in Denver. With so many cards to play, Garmin-Sharp is expected to hit hard, hit early and hit often but they’re not the only threat for the yellow jersey.
Van Garderen added, “People keep forgetting about Levi. I think that’s a mistake. Out of Tom and Christian, he’s the better time trialist and the better climber. He’s only eight seconds behind. I’m really worried about him. Obviously I know Christian’s in good form, but it’s not just a game of me vs. Christian. It’s going to be hard because it’s a climb, but it’s going to be tactical. I can follow one guy, not three. We’ll see how it plays out.”
The Radioshack-Nissan team has been playing possum all week but that that should end today.
Horner stated, “This whole week has been about just gaining a little bit of time here and there, all in anticipation of tomorrow’s uphill finish. It will be the one day where everyone will be attacking BMC. I know our team will. We have a lot of guys close on GC so I know we’ll send everyone up the road tomorrow.”
Best young rider Dombrowski, who finished fourth on the Queen Stage at the Amgen Tour of California, can’t wait. “I’m really looking forward to a little longer climb at the finish than we’ve seen before and I think it’s really going to shake up based on what we’ve seen in the previous decisive days.”
Let’s not forget the men hoping to pull out a big result, riders such as Ivan Rovny (RusVelo) and Lucas Euser (Spidertech) who are sitting at six and 17 seconds down respectively. The two will be looing to use the ongoing duel between Garmin-Sharp and BMC to their advantage. And of course, one can never discount the Colombian EPM-Une riders when the road goes up.
“Tomorrow is a good day for Rovny to try and gain some time in the overall classification. It is a very hard stage – I know all the roads well from my years of living in Boulder – and the finish is a tough climb,” RusVelo sport director Henk Vogels said. “It suits Rovny so we will do all we can to make sure he arrives as fresh as possible.”
“I think at the Tour of Utah I kind of emerged as a bit of a contender for the race so I wanted to go into USA Pro Challenge with that same attitude, being aggressive and contending for a podium spot. I’m still on track for that, I’ve been aggressive, put my neck out there a little bit. “ said Euser, who has been waiting for Flagstaff to make his next move after his stage 3 attacks.
Proven time trialist van Garderen’s goal for the stage is to simply not lose time, “I don’t really think I need to gain too much because I think I have an advantage in the time trial, I just need to hold the wheel.”
Before the final showdown, more fireworks will ensue in the fight for the KOM points and for the sprint points.
After leaving start city of Golden, the road for stage 6 heads north to Boulder for the first sprint line before heading up Boulder Canyon and the first KOM competition. Riders will continue climbing as they are faced with ascents exceeding 9,300 ft. on the incredible Peak to Peak Highway before a long and fast descent into the town of Lyons for the second sprint line. Classic local climbs up Lefthand Canyon and Lee Hill Rd. present the next set of challenges for the riders before they return for one final pass through downtown Boulder and the final uphill dash to the finish line up Flagstaff.
BMC’s Taylor Phinney is ready to work to defend his teammate’s yellow jersey. “We’ll see how the tactics play out. Garmin has been playing an interesting game this whole race sending riders up the road at every opportunity. It’s a little bit of a different start tomorrow, it’s a little bit of a flatter start, we’ve had a lot of uphill starts these days which make it easier for climbers like Danielson and Stetina to get away and put pressure on us but tomorrow we have a little bit longer until we hit Boulder Canyon which is also a lot more gradual. We’ll play it by ear, we’ve got some great leaders on the team obviously with Cadel (Evans) and George (Hincapie) and Tejay really coming into his own as a team leader. So yeah, I’m there to do my thing for him and get him that yellow jersey.”
Green jersey and two-time stage winner Tyler Farrar will work for his Garmin-Sharp leader, Vande Velde. “It’s easy to focus on Christian and Tejay, but there are about 25-30 guys who are very close. I expect a lot of fireworks. Boulder is one of the hotbeds of cycling in America, so everyone is going to want to put on a show. I want to help Christian, so whatever they want me to do, I’m there.”