|Tom Danielsonís (Garmin-Sharp) epic performance today is why I love pro cycling. Huge Tom, huge!
Stage 3, the queen stage of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge, included two monster climbs up Cottonwood Pass (elevation 12,126 feet) and Independence Pass (elevation 12,095 feet) on a course of 130.6 miles from Gunnison to Aspen. Danielson had his way with course and lead the stage for over 115 miles.
Early leaders included Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), David Zabriskie (Garmin-Sharp), Fabio Aru (Astana), Jeffry Louder (United Healthcare), Michael Friedman (Optum), and Francisco Colorado (EPM-UNE). Team BMC controlled the front of the peloton, and tried, unsuccessfully, to chase down the break, to protect Tejay van Garderenís (BMC) leaderís jersey.
Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) and Colorado (EPM-UNE) pulled free from the break, and stayed out front approaching the summit of Independence Pass. Danielson provided all the effort as Colorado hung on, before Danielson attacked just before the summit. Danielson needed to finish only 13 seconds ahead of van Garderen in order to take over the race lead. After breaching the summit of Independence Pass alone, Danielson rocketed downhill trying to fend off his chasers, including van Garderen, who came after Danielson as if Danielson had just stolen something from him. The chase group reformed on the descent, and victory for Danielson started looking doubtful as the chase group was hot on Danielsonís heels heading into the home stretch. The final 400 meters was a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrill ride as Danielson mustered every ounce of power in his legs to avoid being captured by his chasers. And avoid capture he did. Danielsonís incredible effort may not have earned him the leaderís yellow jersey but it was rewarded with a well-earned stage victory.
Van Garderen lost the race lead as Christian Vande Velde finished three places ahead of him. Because van Garderen and Vande Velde were tied on time, the race lead was determined by each riderís finishing place.
Stage 4 will take the riders back over Independence Pass, in the opposite direction, during the 97.2 mile day from Aspen to Beaver Creek.
1 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin - Sharp 5:02:06|
2 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:02
3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) RadioShack-Nissan
4 Gavin Mannion (USA) Bontrager Livestrong Team
5 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
6 Andreas KlŲden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
7 Javier Eduardo Gomez Pineda (Col) EPM - Une
8 Ivan Rovny (Rus) RusVelo
9 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Sharp
10 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Bissell Cycling
General Classification after Stage 3
1 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Sharp 13:37:20
2 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
3 Ivan Rovny (Rus) RusVelo 0:00:06
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:00:08
5 Ramiro Rincon Diaz (Col) EPM - Une
6 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin - Sharp 0:00:10
7 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:12
8 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
9 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
10 Lucas Euser (USA) Spidertech Powered By C10
About the author: A trial attorney by trade, Heath Langle returned to bicycle racing after a 12-year hiatus in order to achieve his lifetime goal of becoming a failed Masters category racer. He is a member of the Sacramento Golden Wheelmen Bicycle Racing Team, and a former college basketball player. He is a native Californian, who also earned a Masters Degree in Business, and is a freelance writer and contributor to The Daily Peloton.
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