Aspen to Beaver Creek-97.2miles
A truism of bike racing is that when just about everyone is expecting one result, another is more likely to occur. That was pretty much the story for the fourth stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The 97-mile route from Aspen to Beaver Creek looked like it was perfect to result in a field sprint at the end, but it was a solo rider who spent almost the entire day alone, who took the win.
Stage racing has its torments. One greeted the peloton as they rolled out of Aspen this morning. A prize for finishing yesterday's stage meant they got to climb Independence Pass at the beginning of the stage, the same mountain they descended yesterday afternoon. Twenty-miles of uphill is a hard way to begin a long race. Several riders took advantage of what they imagined to be trepidation in the field and scooted off the front in the first mile. RadioShack-Nissan's Jens Voigt got in the move. And when he sensed a lack of motivation from his fellow escapees, he decided to leave them behind, only three miles into the race. Liquigas-Cannondale, with their general classification hopes residing in Damiano Caruso and knowing that the finish favored his sprinting abilities, protected Caruso in the pack.
At the summit of Independence, Voigt was alone, as it should be, over two minutes ahead of a chase group and over four minutes to the field. Voigt kept on the gas. As did the chase group, which contained Garmin-Sharp's Peter Stetina, who rode into the virtual leader's jersey on the road, forcing the peloton to chase. With 34 miles remaining, the chase group was caught by the pack, and Voigt was 2:40 ahead. With the threat to the race lead neutralized, the field sat up and allowed Voigt's lead to balloon up to six minutes.
By the finish, the lead was reduced to two minutes and 58 seconds. With time gaps possible at the finish, the Liquigas-Cannondale team tried to set up their man to lead the field in. In the uphill sprint to the line, RadioShack's Andreas Klöden prevailed over Tejay Van Garderen, who, because he finished three places ahead of Garmin-Sharp's Christian Vande Velde, recaptured the leader's jersey, even though they remain tied on time. Caruso finished twelfth, five seconds behind Klöden. The loss of time dropped him to ninth overall, seventeen seconds off the pace, but he kept his lead in the Points competition with a five-point cushion.
For Caruso, the journey was so hard that the finish was satisfactory. He reported, "The stage had one of the hardest opening sections of my career. The long climb to Independence Pass was really hard and in this case you have to save much energy as possible. I thought about the final: be with the best was my goal. I lost only five seconds, everything was good except the last 100 meters, which were really hard." While he's still in Green, the goal of keeping the Points Jersey just got harder. His teammate, American Ted King, was forced to pull out of the race due to stomach troubles. Caruso's support is down to six riders.
Tomorrow's Stage Five offers another chance for stage glory. The 117.9-mile ride from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs starts mountainous, but finishes flat, another good finale for the young Italian. With stages six and seven set up as throw downs for the kings of the peloton, this stage could be another field sprint opportunity, or another chance for a breakaway artist to have a go.
Stage 4 Results—Aspen to Beaver Creek—97.2 miles
1. Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 3:54:00
2. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 0:02:58
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team Same Time
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) OmegaPharma-Quickstep Same Time
5. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan Same Time
Stage 4 Liquigas-Cannondale
12. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 0:03:03
33. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) 0:03:47
35. Timothy Duggan (USA) 0:03:58
52. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:06:42
62. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Same Time
71. Moreno Moser (Ita) Same Time
80. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:07:04
DNF Ted King (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale
1. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 17:34:18
2. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Sharp Same Time
3. Ivan Rovny (Rus) RusVelo 0:00:06
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) OmegaPharma-Quickstep 0:00:08
5. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:00:12
9. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 0:00:17
23. Timothy Duggan (USA) 0:01:21
32. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) 0:04:14
43. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:13:58
63. Moreno Moser (Ita) 0:30:10
74. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) 0:41:45
87. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:48:25
1. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 23 pts
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Sharp 18
3. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin - Sharp 16
4. Gavin Mannion (USA) Bontrager Livestrong 12
5. Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) Team Type 1 - Sanofi 12