Durango to Telluride 125.6mi

The USA Pro Challenge, a seven-day stage race that traverses the state of Colorado from the southwest corner of the state to Denver, kicked off today with a 125.6-mile trek from Durango to Telluride. This race brings many top European racers stateside, bringing the intense competition of Europe to an American stage. Unlike many stage races, and unlike last year, this race did not start with a prologue, but with a road stage. Without a race leader, and a team to defend his lead, the racing was going to be unpredictable. With three gentle mountains to climb en route, the stage was actually one of the easier of the race and one that was expected to be a mere leg-stretcher when compared to the hard stages ahead.

In contrast to the prognostications, the race was aggressive from the beginning. The first moves came with the first intermediate sprint, only seven miles into the race, while the field was still in Durango. Attacks were coming fast, and with several groups on the road, there was ample confusion for both racers and spectators.

When the attackers settled down, there was a group of 22 up the road, with Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas-Cannondale's top rider and third-place finisher at the Tour de France, in the middle of the attack. The group worked well together and their gap grew to an impressive 5:30 by the time the leaders reached the second intermediate sprint in Dolores 62 miles into the race.

Twenty-two riders is a large group, usually too large for strong riders. Weaker riders can hide. So Nibali and fellow break rider Tom Danielson of Garmin-Sharp attacked the group. Eight riders made it up to them, to make 10. Which slowly was whittled down to just Nibali, Danielson, Danielson's teammate Peter Stetina, and Eduardo Beltran of EPM-UNE.

With 10 miles remaining, and one more hill to climb, Danielson and Stetina attacked, dropping Nibali and Beltran. With the finish coming a few miles after a long descent, the Garmin duo had their work cut out for them. They were caught with three miles remaining.

Quickly Liquigas-Cannondale's Ted King attacked with RadioShack's Ben King (not related), and got a gap. A mile later, they were reeled in, and the sprint finish was a guarantee.

Out of the final corner, Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar jumped first. Damiano Caruso of Liquigas-Cannondale was the first to chase. Farrar expanded his lead to the line while Caruso faded a bit, losing his second place on the final meters and crossing the line third.

Farrar thus captures the lead thanks to his victory, while Caruso sits in third place, on the same time with Farrar.

It was good news/bad news day for Caruso. "I'm glad for this podium but all the same disappointed because I'm searching my first win as a pro." Nibali, who finished in 63rd on the day, 32 seconds off the winning time, proved once again he's a smart, intuitive rider. "Today's break was not in our plan but I decided to follow my feeling. Since the beginning I felt good and when I saw the group trying the break I decided to follow. You never know what can happen in a break, if the group decides to let it go or immediately stop. I think was a good chance and also if I didn't get any result I'm glad for the training."

Tomorrow, the riders go from Montrose to Crested Butte, a shorter stage, at 99 miles, but also harder, with the final 40 miles of the race being basically uphill, finishing with some steep ramps taking the riders to the finish line, dishing out the pain, and opening time gaps. Expect to see the Liquigas-Cannondale team at the front, trying to both win the stage and put one of their own into the leader's jersey.

Stage One Results—Durango to Telluride—125.6miles
1. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Sharp 4:42:48
2. Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) Team Type 1 – Sanof Same Time
3. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale Same Time
4. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Team Exergy Same Time
5. Rory Sutherland (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Same Time

Stage One Liquigas-Cannondale
37. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Same Time
42. Timothy Duggan (USA) Same Time
58. Edward King (USA) 0:00:32
63. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) 0:01:46
67. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:12:43
80. Moreno Moser (Ita) Same Time
108. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) 0:15:22

Overall Standings
1. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Sharp 4:42:48
2. Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) Team Type 1 – Sanofi Same Time
3. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale Same Time
4. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Team Exergy Same Time
5. Rory Sutherland (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Same Time

Overall Liquigas-Cannondale
37. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Same Time
42. Timothy Duggan (USA) Same Time
58. Edward King (USA) 0:00:32
63. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) 0:01:46
67. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:12:43
80. Moreno Moser (Ita) Same Time
108. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) 0:15:22