Power teams line up for USA Pro Challenge
The Aspen Times
ASPEN — The big dogs are coming to Colorado.
Four World Tour power teams will be in the field for the fifth annual USA Pro Challenge cycling stage race in Colorado, scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 17, in Steamboat Springs.
The power players for 2015 will be led by BMC Racing, Trek Factory Racing, Tinkoff-Saxo and Cannondale-Garmin, a Colorado-based team.
Four more UCI Professional Continental teams will race in Colorado, including U.S. team UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, Drapac Professional Cycling (Australia), Caja Rural-Seguros RGA (Spain), and Team Novo Nordisk of the United States.
Eight UCA Continental Teams will round out the 16-team field for the USA Pro Challenge, which will feature the Stage 3 finish in downtown Aspen on Wednesday, Aug 19. The riders will start that day’s stage at Copper Mountain Resort, finishing with a climb and descent of Independence Pass.
On Thursday, Aug. 20, Aspen will host the start of Stage 4, when the riders will go back over Independence Pass to an eventual finish in Breckenridge.
“It’s always an exciting time when we get to announce the phenomenal level of talent and super-star teams who will ride in our race,” said Shawn Hunter, the CEO and co-chairman of the USA Pro Challenge. “This year, we have some new additions who will make their debut at the USA Pro Challenge in front of millions of people.”
One of those teams is Axeon Cycling, a UCA Continental team that includes Aspen High School graduate Keegan Swirbul.
The valley teenager rode in the USA Pro Challenge last year in his debut season as a professional with Bissell.
This year, Swirbul and his Axeon teammates will ride in the peloton of the USA Pro Challenge.
In addition, teams from the UCA Continental ranks include Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies (U.S.), Team SmartStop (U.S.), Hincapie Racing Team (U.S.), Jamis-Hagens Berman (U.S.), Jelly Belly presented by MAXXIS (U.S.), Team Budget Forklifts (Australia) and Cycling Academy, the first professional licensed cycling team from Israel.
The USA Pro Challenge field will include the winner of last year’s Aspen/Snowmass Circuit Race, which kicked off the 2014 stage race.
Kiel Reijnen of Boulder and UnitedHealthcare is scheduled to return to the Pro Challenge. He’s currently leading the Tour of Utah after taking the opening-stage win in Logan earlier this week.
BMC Racing will be led by Rohan Dennis, the winner of the opening time trial at the Tour de France this year.
He’ll have teammate Damiano Caruso, coming off a strong ride in the Giro d’Italia.
The Trek power team will include U.S. champion Matthew Bushe and Haimar Zubeldia, a four-time Tour de France top-10 finisher.
Davide Formolo, a stage winner from the Giro, will lead the Cannondale-Garmin team. Ruben Zepuntke of Germany and Colombian Janier Acevedo will join Cannondale-Garmin for the Colorado race.
Acevedo finished third overall in the 2013 Tour of California.
Hincapie Racing will showcase American Robin Carpenter, a stage winner in last year’s USA Pro Challenge.
He and several teammates trained in the Aspen area earlier this summer.
“The USA Pro Challenge has always been a proving ground for rising young talent, and this year will be no different,” Hunter said. “We are definitely seeing a changing of the guards in the international level cycling, and it’s exhilarating to see it first hand on the roads of Colorado.”
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Thanksgiving seems to be ever-present here in the Roaring Fork Valley. I’m not talking turkey and gravy, I’m speaking to the gifts we receive constantly, throughout the seasons.