SCENIC ROAD WORK
Participants in the men’s peleton of the first stage of the inaugural Colorado Classic cycle through a damp Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs on Thursday. The 93.5-mile course, which included six laps through the scenic city park, finished at Tejon Street downtown. »
COLORADO SPRINGS» Everything is different at the inaugural Colorado Classic.
The courses are short and stout. The roads are wide and smooth. The six-rider teams are smaller than other races. And with only four stages, the winner of the general classification title probably will be decided during Friday’s brutal laps up Breckenridge’s Moonstone Road, a 64-mile beatdown with more than 7,000 vertical feet of climbing.
“The guy who wins in Breckenridge will be in the driver’s seat,” said Steve Bauer, the BMC Racing boss who is calling shots from the team car chasing the peloton, keeping his team on target with perpetually shifting strategies and reactions.
Thursday’s Stage 1 in Colorado Springs was pretty straightforward. Racers dropped the hammer from the gun and kept it pinned. The women stayed tight until the final stretch, where a wild sprint delivered the win to Sho-Air Twenty 20’s Jenn Valente. The men’s race saw sprinters breaking away early, only to reel in as the peloton wound six 15½-mile laps between the city’s downtown and Garden of the
Gods. Friday’s race in Breckenridge will see the men grinding 10 laps up Moonstone Road and the women pedaling up and down the steep hill five times. Moonstone, which played a pivotal role in the USA Pro Challenge, is a 1-mile stretch of pavement above Breckenridge that climbs nearly 600 feet and tops out at 10,200 feet.
It’s highly likely that the peloton will break apart on the climbs and high-speed, winding descents in Breckenridge. Some riders — from a group that is considered the most elite in the world — probably will get yanked from the stage for not making time splits.
With only six team members, reeling in break-away groups is a challenge because riders need to ride in a group to save energy. Sending two riders to catch a break-away means there are only four to push with the peloton.
“The team has to be ready from the gun. We have to have riders being attentive to cover breaks. Once the race evolves, the six riders limit your resources to control the race but everyone here is in the same position,” said Bauer, who wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France in 1988 and 1990.
Circuit racing allows riders to test their endurance as well as sprinting and technical bikehandling skills. There aren’t long climbs for daydreaming. With growing familiarity for upcoming twists and turns on each lap, the cyclists can keep their engines humming near red line for nearly the entire race.
“It was tough from the start, because it was so short,” said Rally Cycling’s Emma White, who took third in the women’s race, which saw the peloton flying at more than 32 mph up the course’s steepest hills. “It wasn’t long enough for people to need to recover after the climbs.”
In traditional stage races, riders intuitively suss out the competition over long hours in the saddle, watching for telltale signs of fatigue or weakness. But with only four relatively short stages, the Colorado Classic athletes don’t have the ability to settle in and adjust. And with only six team members — most big races have teams of eight — sparing riders to catch break-away groups can be a challenge. Watch for small groups of jostling cyclists during the sprinting sections.
“It just makes the race that much harder to control,” said Kiel Reijnen, a former Boulder pro with Trek-Segafredo and a renowned sprinter who earned two sprint jerseys at the USA Pro Challenge. “I think it will be a lot more dynamic than it has been in the past and a lot less predictable.”
The general classification title will be decided by mere seconds, and the winner will likely come down to time bonuses. Winners of sprint sections can shave one, two or three seconds from their overall time, while the top-three finishers of each stage get 10, six and four seconds removed from their cumulative time.
“I think the GC is going to be really, really tight and time-bonus dependent,” Reijnen said.
Cyclists compete during Stage 1 of the Colorado Classic women’s race Thursday in Colorado Springs.