Tejay van Garderen pedaled off to work Tuesday morning.
The Aspen professional cyclist rode past friends and family on Main Street— including wife Jessica and their young daughter — to start the second stage of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge under cloudy, threatening skies.
More on that later.
One hundred and five miles later — and a few rainy and muddy miles later — van Garderen rode into the steep uphill finish at Mount Crested Butte and propelled himself into third place overall in the Colorado bicycle stage race.
Van Garderen finished third in the stage behind Alex Howes, the Boulder rider for Garmin Sharp who finished a very close second in Monday’s Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race in downtown Aspen.
Howes, frustrated with two second places, picked up some consolation when he took the overall race lead and donned the yellow jersey after just missing it in Aspen a day earlier.
The historic stage win Tuesday went to 22-year-old rookie Robin Carpenter of the Hincapie Sportswear Development Team, the lone survivor of a big early breakaway on the stage that left Aspen and traveled to Basalt via McLain Flats, Lower River Road and Highway 82.
A sprint through Carbondale was followed by the ride up the Crystal River Valley to Redstone and then the climb up McClure Pass.
The daring route then turned over Kebler Pass and its 40 kilometers of dirt surface, coated by dust-dampening magnesium chloride.
Here’s where the history comes in.
Rain and slick conditions as the cyclists negotiated the long and grueling Kebler Pass.
Carpenter used the situation as a solo springboard into the lead on the Kebler dirt.
He built a 45-second lead over the break group, which had long since been absorbed by the charging peloton — led by van Garderen’s BMC machine.
But with heavy rain and a deteriorated road conditions, USA Pro Challenge officials neutralized a section of the race for the first time in the four-year history of the event.
The neutralization came on the lower slopes of Kebler Pass. Cyclists were stopped where the pavement resumes for the run into Crested Butte.
With a bit of confusion, officials did a race restart with the same time gaps that were in place when the race went neutral.
That basically gave Carpenter a 45-second head start for the final 7 miles of racing.
The young rider for Hincapie Sportswear Development blasted out on the restart and extended his lead as the peloton apparently struggled to organize the chase.
Carpenter won the charge into downtown Crested Butte and headed up to the resort.
Van Garderen then broke out of the peloton and attacked on the super-steep climb to Mount Crested Butte. Howes stayed on his wheel.
Carpenter held on to win by six seconds over a closing Howes and van Garderen, with the Garmin Sharp rider taking second and the yellow jersey.
Van Garderen’s BMC teammate Ben Hermans of Belgium finished fourth, 14 seconds back.
Tom Danielson of Garmin Sharp was fifth, 10 seconds behind van Garderen in the critical general classification rankings.
“I’m kind of disappointed again,” Howes told the NBC Sports Network in the finish area. “I wanted the stage win.”
He said the neutralization caused some confusion, but the racing resumed.
“Anytime you can take yellow, you take it,” said Howes, who has trained frequently around Boulder with van Garderen, among others.
He said he doesn’t envision keeping the yellow jersey to the end because, “I can’t time-trial to save my life. It’s not my jersey to keep.”
He said that he and van Garderen and the others battled the rain and cold.
“TJ and I both grew up with cold, nasty Colorado weather,:” Howes said. “Today we had nasty, Colorado weather.”
Howes leads Hermans by 11 seconds and van Garderen by 12.
American Matthew Busche of Trek Factory is fourth overall, 13 seconds back.
Danielson is in fifth, 22 seconds off the pace.
Aspen first-year pro Keegan Swirbul, 18, finished safely in 41st place Tuesday, 1:44 back of the winner.
That moved the Aspen High School graduate up to 47th overall.
After two days of racing, Kiel Reijnen of UnitedHealthcare, who won in Aspen on Monday, holds the sprint jersey.
Ben Jacques-Maynes of Jamis-Hagens Berman leads in the king of the mountain competition.
Clement Chevrier of Bissell, a French rider, is the best young rider so far.
Tuesday’s jersey for the most aggressive rider went to Carpenter, a pro from Philadelphia who won his first professional race.
The cyclists will take on more big mountains today in the 96-mile third stage, starting in Gunnison.
They will go up and over Monarch Pass and down to Salida for a turnaround.
Then they will climb back up Monarch to the mountain finish at Monarch Ski Area. Start time is 11:25 a.m.