Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies’ Ryan Anderson finished third today in downtown Steamboat Springs, sprinting against stage winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano), and BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet to earn the team’s first podium of Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge.
Anderson dodged a hard crash with just two kilometers to go involving several of his teammates. Mike Friedman took the brunt of the collision for the team, and Alex Candelario and Jesse Anthony were also involved in the crash. It was ill-timed, coming as the team was lined up at the front of the race, attempting to deliver Anderson, Friedman, and Candelario to finish off the sprint. Anderson fortunately escaped injury alongside a big leadout man in Tom Zirbel, and catapulted off his powerful closing kick to finish on the podium.
“We had control heading into the final km. and I was lucky to be able to dodge that crash with Zirbel,” said Anderson. “It feels good to get on the podium after what happened, and we are going to have another shot at the sprint in a couple days.”
Jens Voigt, surprising few, launched a massive solo effort from the early breakaway and built a large gap on the field. It was up to Optum p/b KBS and other teams interesting in the sprint to reel in the German powerhouse. They commenced an all-out chase of Voigt. Riders from Garmin-Sharp, Argos-Shimano, and Cannondale joined the chase, sharing the work on the fast descent and flat run-in to Steamboat Springs, which started with a big effort from Tom Soladay.
“In the pre-race meeting, we were 100% committed to the field sprint. When we saw no one was going to chase down the breakaway, Jonas told me to go the front to reduce the deficit before the final climb of the day,” said Soladay. “I took the gap down from five to four minutes, and after that it was a top to bottom team effort to bring back the breakaway and Jens.”
Marsh Cooper, Jesse Anthony, and Soladay continued to push the pace up the climb, and after successfully overtaking Voigt with 10 kilometers to go, Optum p/b KBS took control of the race. With 2 km. to go, a Cannondale rider took a risk, speeding through a narrow gap on the shoulder separating an Orange and Black leadout train traveling at over 30 mph from the line of spectators on the barricade-less course. He collided hard with an overzealous fan, causing Candelario, Friedman, and Anthony to hit the deck in the process.
Friedman suffered serious road rash and a hard hit to the head in the crash, but had no breaks or sprains in the incident and was able to get back on his bike and finished the stage after assistance from medical officials. Candelario suffered significant road rash and bruising but also finished the stage, while Anthony escaped with minor road rash.
Friedman was shaken up after the crash, but was able to attend dinner with his teammates, bandages and all, after the race.
“Coming down the descent into Steamboat, it was cool to see all those orange helmets lined up on the front,” said Friedman, “It got me very motivated for the finish line in Steamboat, but you just never know what’s going to happen in a field sprint. I’m glad I avoided more serious injury, and glad that we got a result as well.”
The team tackles stage four tomorrow, from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek. One of the toughest stages of the tour, the stage brings back last year’s grueling mountaintop finish in Beaver Creek, with several categorized climbs along the way.