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.
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.
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.
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.