Hecht makes his move and wins Stage 1
VAIL — What the Hecht?
Gage Hecht, 20, of Team Aevolo, better known for developing young racers, and born and raised down in Parker, was the shocking upset winner during Thursday, Aug. 16’s opening stage of the Colorado Classic.
Every form of cycling wisdom said that young master Hecht had jumped the gun, taking the lead on the steep uphill of the eighth and final lap. He had to have emptied his tank in doing so. The peloton always catches the loner.
“For sure, I didn’t really expect to be able to make that move,” Hecht said. “I thought I just could get in one last attack, get a little extra TV coverage, my name out there a little more. In the last 3 (kilometers) I just tried to hang in there as best I could. I thought I could get Best Young Rider Jersey.”
And yet, there Hecht was at the finish line, looking back before firing his right fist in the air twice in triumph. He got his Best Young Rider Jersey, the King of the Mountain Jersey (for climbing prowess) and the General-Classification Blue Jersey (as the Colorado Classic Leader), quite the collection.
This is really the equivalent of Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack” actually winning the Masters.
Hecht finished the 67.8-mile, eight-lap course in 2 hours, 34 minutes, 44 seconds, six seconds ahead of the pack.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me,” Hecht said. “It’s just amazing. I’m so excited about doing this here.”
Hecht’s been an up-and-comer, winning the USA Cycling Amateur Road Nationals Criterion, but nothing in this neighborhood of caliber of competition.
“At the village, it was kind of 50-50 that I was going to get caught,” Hecht said. “I gave a really hard push going through town. Coming down that hill, I put a punch in … I kept hearing 20 seconds from the marshals, which is a really good thing to hear at 3 kilometers.”
And as he came into the final turns of the course, Hecht kept looking over his shoulder looking for that pack that never came.
He finished six seconds ahead of the pack, which included United Healthcare’s Travis McCabe and Australia’s Joe Lewis.
McCabe was a part of five from UHC finishing in the front pack.
Team EF Education First also had a quintet, led by Taylor Phinney, of Boulder.
As the Colorado Classic continues, it looks like those two teams will be putting forward contenders for the general-classification. McCabe, who hails from Denver, is coming back from a concussion.
“This spring was really difficult,” McCabe said. “I’ve learned how a concussion can mess you up both physically and mentally. It took me a while to really get over that. I think it was more mental. You come away with a bad spring and you start questioning yourself and your ability. It took me a good half-year to get over it.”
Australia’s Lewis had a bounce-back showing, as part of the pack officially six seconds back. Racing for Halowesko Citadel, he now considers Colorado home.
“I had a horrendous Tour de Utah,” Lewis said. “I came out of that not sure if I had it in me. I’ve had a lot of injuries for three years. It started with a knee injury. It feels really good to be up here with two excellent racers and to be on the podium in a race in my home state. It’s nice that I still can do this.”
As for the format of Stage 1 with its eight laps, count Lewis as a fan.
“I really liked it,” he said. “Compared to a lot of races we do, it’s short and fast and it’s spectator friendly. It’s different from long, hard races. It was great.”
Scanning the top 10
With the caveat that the entire front pack — 42 other riders not named Hecht are officially 6 seconds back, Serghei Tvetcov (UHC) is listed in fourth, followed by Christopher Blevins (Hagens Berman Axeon) in fifth. Ty Manger (Rally Cycling), Michael Hernandez (Aevolo), Edwin Avila (Colombia, racing for the Israeli Cycling Academy), Toms Skujins (Austria, racing for Trek-Segafredo) and Phinney round out the top 10.
The Colorado Classic continues with Stage 2, the Vail Time Trial, up Vail Pass on Friday, Aug. 17.
“Climbing isn’t one of my strongest strengths,” Hecht said. “We’ll see. I’m excited for a time trial. After a day like today, I don’t know how fast I’ll be, so I’m going to give it my all. It’s going to be really cool to be starting last. I’ve never done that before.”
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.