Photo Essay | Bike Racing is Hard Part 2 | Stage 5 | USA Pro Challenge | Woodland Park to Breckenridge

 Stage five of the USA Pro Challenge was another wet, cold, physically draining day for Optum Pro Cycling. Colorado weather is always unpredictable and it was clear rain was coming from the moment the team stepped out of the RV. The course was almost entirely uphill, culminating in a big spike around mile 85 to the summit of Hoosier Pass and then descending into Breckenridge. Photos by Sam Wiebe and Casey Gibson


The team RV is a mobile locker room and kitchen for the riders. “Kitting up” can take a while, especially in nasty conditions and the RV provides a quiet place for the team to prepare and focus on the race.


Embrocation cream is especially useful on cold days to get riders legs warmed up before they have even turned a single pedal stroke.



The course had a relatively pleasant if rainy ascent of Ute Pass and a lush canyon descent to Lake George before the long uphill push to Hooiser Pass.

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Scott Zwizanski managed to join the day’s breakaway at the beginning of the climb to Hoosier Pass.


Rain fell steadily and increasingly as the day wore on, and it was clear to everyone in the peloton that they were in for another long and painful day. It was déjà vu after the cold and punishing second stage and riders shivered on their bikes and struggled to stay close to the front of the race. The day began at 8,437 feet and capped out at 11,539 feet on the summit of Hoosier Pass, making oxygen as sparse as dry pavement.


Carter Jones follows race leader and defending champion Tejay Van Garderen’s wheel to the summit of Hoosier Pass. The group would be completely shattered by the end of the race.

One way to understand the difficulty of bike racing is to observe riders directly after the race. In that moment, adrenaline is still pumping, they are tired, dirty, in pain, and frustrated if the day didn’t go as planned after such a hard effort.


Mike Friedman was called into action at the last minute for the USA Pro Challenge after Will Routley abandoned due to illness. It’s a tough task to race without 100% of the training usually done to get race ready.

The peloton crossed the finish line in splinters. Van Garderen crossed the line 1:33 behind race winner Laurent Didier of Trek Factory Racing but ahead of all of his GC rivals. Jones finished :33 behind Van Garderen, losing time but maintaining his overall placing in 7th. Two more days of racing remain at the USA Pro Challenge.


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