The third edition of the USA Pro Challenge ended Sunday, Aug. 25 in Denver as nearly everyone expected. Peter Sagan won his fourth stage and Tejay van Garderen completed his sweep of this year’s two biggest races in the United States.
The dominance of Sagan and van Garderen served as a microcosm of what is also quite apparent. In three years, the USA Pro Challenge, despite an official name with little charisma or relevance, is now the dominant stage race in the United States.
The Amgen Tour of California by all accounts is set on for next May, although there was plenty of banter among journalists in Colorado that the race is in jeopardy. It will be held for the ninth year, and it’s in need of a makeover.
The city of Santa Rosa, whose cycling fans and the community at large has supported the event more than any community, won’t be involved in 2014. And so where’s the focus of the event? A north-south voyage or another south-to-north trek?
And is San Jose, the only city participating in all Tour of California editions to date, the kind of city the race wishes to have as its focal point?
The USA Pro Challenge needs a mountaintop stage finish and it needs to entice a few other sprinters to at least give Sagan a serious threat. But what is does have is a state of cycling solidarity. The cycling enthusiasts are rabid and they’re everywhere. That’s not the case for Bakersfield or Livermore, California.
Denver isn’t the best city for a bike race, particularly after the race arrives for its finale from clean mountain air, Aspen trees and mountain city charm. But Denver is the capital and there’s something good about a race in a state’s most prominent city.
Sacramento can’t get that part of Tour of California right. It’s been bypassed the past two years, but like Denver, Sacramento is the state capital and the city should be an annual race fixture. The capital of California has a stunning capitol and the surrounding area is ideal for a prologue or a few-lap finish.
With the USA Pro Challenge still fresh, here are 10 final random thoughts about this year’s race:
10. Andrew Talansky is a talent whose temper will hurt him as his career continues. His tirade after the individual time trial stage was inappropriate and it was only outdone in cluelessness when boss man Jonathan Vaughters condoned his rider’s behavior.
9. Tom Danielson, comedian. Damn, he was funny in press conferences. Strategically, he didn’t ride a couple of stages quite right. But he kept his cool and conceded that the better cyclist won the race.
8. First time in 30 years of covering cycling I’ve heard of a rider withdrawing from a race because of excessive nosebleeds. Best with that, Joe (Dombrowski). As a non-cyclist who’s suffered at altitude with the same problem, I use a gel product call Ayr. Cost a few bucks. OTC at local pharmacies. Works well. It includes the following ingredients: Water, Methyl Gluceth 10, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Triethanolamine, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice (Aloe Vera Gel), PEG/PPG 18/18 Dimethicone, Carbomer, Poloxamer 184, Sodium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Glycine Soja Oil (Soybean), Geraniuim Maculatum Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090). Hey, Joe, you’ve got a long career in the sport. Check it out.
7. Peter Sagan now has nearly 60 wins while closing in on the end of his fifth pro season. He’ll likely get a half-dozen more wins by season’s end. Is there a better bike handler in the sport than the 23-year-old Slovakian wonder? And was there a better response all week that Sagan’s answer to a reporter inquiring if he could win the world road race. Sagan’s two-word beauty: “Why not?”
6. The USA Pro Challenge is the most well organized stage race I’ve reported on. Not counting, of course, but I believe it was my 58th. One exception, the young security guy (not policeman) was polite, but he shouldn’t have asked me upon entering the Vail Village, the exact words: “Hi, sir, can I check your bag for a bomb?”
5. Dave Zabriskie. Was Captain America at the race? Alright, he competed. But the Garmin-Sharp rider is just different since returning to the peloton after his suspension.
4. Christian Vande Velde’s last career race on United States should have been one of contrition. He blew kisses to the crowd and into the television camera on the final lap in stage 7. Really? Easiest guy in the peloton to like. But he also confessed to doping with three different teams. Humility, Christian. Humility.
3. Lachlan Morton? Great name. Future star. Take it slow, young fella.
2. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen just weren’t at their best at this year’s race. Great tandem. Nice men. Consider them friends and respect their long careers. But something was amiss in Colorado.
1. Best memory of the race? Jens Voigt in his tuck, descending in stage 3. He didn’t win. It didn’t matter. The effort was beautiful to watch.