Will Routley donned a familiar jersey after one of his trademark breakaway efforts at the USA Pro Challenge, taking the lead in the king of the mountains (KOM) competition the first major climbing stage in Colorado. Routley formed part of the day’s main escape on the roads from Steamboat Springs to Arapahoe Basin, outdistancing his competitors at the summits of Rabbit Ears Pass and Ute Pass, both hovering around 9,500’ above sea level. Routley was excited to provide the team another opportunity at one of America’s biggest races. See a photo gallery from stage two.
“Coming in to this race I was pretty amped up to be a part of a stage win for one my my teammates, especially after watching how great they raced last week in Utah,” said Routley. “I always like to look to a long hard day for a breakaway. It is how I normally take a stab at a stage win or a jersey, and I had that opportunity today.”
Routley, who won the KOM competition at the 2014 Tour of California thanks to another week of savvy breakaway riding and a powerful uphill sprint, will be in a familiar position heading into the race’s decisive stages in the Rockies.
The KOM is a really hard fight to win, as you definitely need to get into several breakaways and do a few efforts sprinting for each banner,” said Routley. “I do think it is possible to defend and win it. I’ve done it before, so it must be possible to do again, right?”
He must also deal with the race’s relentless high-altitude courses, including two stages featuring Independence Pass, topping out at a vertigo-inducing 12,095’ above sea level.
“The altitude here is probably the biggest challenge for me,” said Routley. “I spent 2 weeks at elevation in Colorado before this race, as did the whole team. It was our plan to prepare well, but for me it feels like it was just barely enough. After doing such a long sprint for the first KOM it probably took me 10 min to catch my breath!”
Performance Director Jonas Carney knows there will be no rest over the coming stages in the fight to protect Routley’s jersey.
“This race never cools down. Every day is brutal, there are no flat stages, and we are at high altitude until Saturday. The only rest the guys will get is Friday’s time trial for non-GC riders. Phil Gaimon was our guy for the GC and he is having a tough week, so we are shifting our focus to stage results and jerseys. There will be some opportunities for the breakaways to stay away to the line this week. There will also be plenty of battles over the KOM jersey, and we are hoping for a sprint or two this weekend.”