Questions for today’s Vail stage |

Questions for today’s Vail stage

VAIL, Colorado – Today’s third stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is, in theory, rather simple – go up and as quickly as possible.

It’s a time trial up Vail Pass. The action starts at 1 p.m. with riders going off every 1 minute. The top-20 riders cap the day at 2-minute intervals.

But the proceedings beg answers to a few questions:

• Will the record fall?: When Vail Pass was a part of the old Coors Challenge in the 1980s, the mark was 26 minutes, 33 seconds held by Andy Hampsten in 1987. Given that bikes and the riders themselves have evolved a lot in the last 24 years, the answer is yes.

So we will rephrase the question: What will the time be?

This will be critical to the race as Stage 3 is the midway point of the Challenge, including the prologue. It’s also going to be on the minds of spectators in Vail.

Remember that a lot of the people watching today are cyclists themselves and have done this ride, either during the Teva Mountain Games or for recreation. People will be comparing their times with the racers.

• How much time can a rider gain during a time trial?: The answer is “Darn good question.”

Tejay Van Garderen holds down the yellow jersey with a time of 10 hours, 4 minutes and 8 seconds. If there’s 1 minute to be gained, there’s a possibility for a shakeup among the top-seven riders. George Hincapie (16 seconds behind), Tom Danielson (22 seconds), Levi Leipheimer (34 seconds), Christian Vandevelde (45 seconds), Cadel Evans (51 seconds) and Janier Acevedo Calle (52 seconds) are all within the 1-minute mark.

Two minutes? That brings the top-23 competitors into play. For the record, Columbia’s Jaime Castenada is 1:58 back in 23rd. There is separation between him and the United States’ Brent Bookwalter in 24th. Bookwalter is 2:57 off the lead.

Then throw in the intangibles, a tire blowing, etc. Expect to see some shakeup among the leaders.

• Who are the climbers who can take advantage today?: OK, if we knew that, we’d head to Vegas, put down some money and retire.

Hincapie looked like a beast going from Gunnison to Aspen in Stage 2 Tuesday, beating the field over Cottonwood and Independence passes. Van Garderen has the overall lead after two stages in the last two days with serious elevation change. Leipheimer has climbing on his resume, while Danielson is a native Coloradan.

And then, there’s Evans, the defending Tour De France winner, who certainly is no stranger to verticals.

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