USA Pro Challenge: Kiel Reijnen wins again in Aspen
The Aspen Times
Kiel Reijnen should apply for the housing lottery in Aspen; every time he’s here, he wins.
Boulder cyclist Kiel Reijnen bolted to the front in a bunch sprint on Aspen’s Main Street on Wednesday afternoon to win Stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge.
The 28-year-old survived the ordeal of Independence Pass to repeat as a Pro Challenge stage winner in Aspen, where he won the opening Aspen/Snowmass Circuit race last year with another late sprint.
“I know this town well,” said Reijnen, who also is familiar with the finishing stretch in Aspen. “In those last few meters, it’s all instinct.”
Reijnen said his UnitedHealthcare teammates worked hard to put him in position to challenge for the stage win — a team goal for the day.
As they turned onto Main for the final sprint, Reijnen followed one cyclist and then hopped to the side to follow another charging rider.
“As soon as I got on his wheel, I kept going,” Reijnen said as he surged ahead for the undisputed victory in the 101-mile stage that had started in 38-degree temperatures at Copper Mountain earlier Wednesday.
Reijnen, after crossing the line, immediately turned back to seek out his UnitedHealthcare teammates.
“They were willing to sacrifice for me,” he said.
Rohan Dennis of BMC, the cyclist who won the opening time trial in the recent Tour de France, powered across in second place after leading the BMC team throughout the stage.
Ruben Zepuntke, a German rider for Cannondale-Garmin, finished third for the Colorado-based squad.
Overall, USA Pro Challenge leader Brent Bookwalter of BMC finished in the lead group and protected his lead and the yellow jersey, which he will wear in today’s stage from Aspen to Breckenridge.
Reijnen said his win Wednesday would not have been possible without crucial help from teammates Marco Canola and Janez Brajkovic on Independence Pass.
“To say I was in distress is an understatement,” Reijnen said of his struggle to reach the summit of the 12,095-foot pass.
“The last couple kilometers up there, I was hurting. Marco [Canola] was there, and Janez [Brajkovic] came back to help,” Reijnen said. “For the last K-and a-half, they protected me from the wind. They paced me back up.”
Familiar with the Highway 82 descent into Aspen, Reijnen said he knew they could catch the peloton ahead on the 20-mile run to Main Street.
“On the descent, we rallied,” Reijnen said. “We know the descent really well.”
The peloton quickly absorbed what was left of a breakaway, led by Laurent Didier of Trek Factory Racing. Didier tried to pull away solo on the climb from Twin Lakes.
But on the descent, he was caught along with Lachlan Morton of Jelly Belly, who would launch three more futile attacks on the descent in an effort to break the peloton.
“Once we caught on [to the peloton], we knew we had a good chance for the stage. We had numbers,” Reijnen said.
He executed the final sprint to take the stage win, matching a stage win last month in the Tour of Utah.
The victory was even sweeter, he said, after an agonizing second-place sprint finish behind BMC’s Taylor Phinney in Stage 1 in Steamboat Springs.
Reijnen said BMC’s Bookwalter is a popular overall leader among the riders in the peloton.
“It’s huge gratification and enjoyment to ride in yellow,” said Bookwalter, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Primarily a support rider for cyclists like Tejay van Garderen and Cadel Evans, Bookwalter is out front this year.
“This is the first race I’ve led in the USA,” said Bookwalter, who was third in the opening stage behind Phinney and Reijnen. “Our team has done a great job.”
The 31-year-old pro cyclist said the power of the BMC team helped him retain the yellow jersey.
“The other guys took good care of me. We had fresh legs for the last climb,” he said.
But he warned that today’s 125-mile stage starting in Aspen could change the USA Pro standings.
“[Thursday] is a big day with the potential for a big GC [general classification] shakeup with a dynamic finish in Breckenridge,” Bookwalter said.
Didier, for his part, was named the most aggressive rider in Wednesday’s stage.
Will Routley, a Canadian riding for Optum, is the leader in the King of the Mountain competition.
Hugh Carthy of Caja Rural, 21, is leading the Best Young Rider category. He’s from Great Britain.
The race started with an early break of 11 riders.
BMC and UnitedHealthcare monitored the gap and closed down the margin on Independence Pass.
The steady, grinding pace up Fremont Pass took an early toll on cyclists who had endured a brutal day in the saddle Tuesday with the mountain finish at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
Eric Young of Optum went down in a crash 17 kilometers into the race and was forced to abandon.
Brian Kamstra of Team Novo Nordisk dropped out of the peloton along with Guy Gabay of the Cycling Academy Team.
With big crowds lining the streets in Leadvile, Jesus Hernandez of Tinkoff-Saxo won the day’s first sprint. Kyle Murphy of Caja Rural was second in the sprint.
Daniel Jaramillo of Jamis-Hagens Berman was third across the line in Leadville this morning.
The average speed of Wednesday’s stage was 25.5 mph with an elevation gain of 7.638 feet.
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