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Farrar wins as Kiwis step up in USA Pro Challenge
Aug 21st, 12. Two Kiwis joined the day's break in the first stage of the UCA Pro Challenge in Colorado where Tyler Farrar took his first win of the season.
It was a fitting reward for team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda whose riders had ridden aggressively throughout the 204km opening stage.
They were well represented in the large early break, forced the split and had the last two remaining riders out the front of the race before it all came back together.
"They (competing teams) didn't let us go, so we just smashed it in their face," Garmin's Tom Danielson said of the race strategy.
"Races like this, no one lets anyone get anywhere ─ you have to create chaos to win. We did that on the first hill, then again on the second part of the climb. You have to take advantage of the chaos you created and hope people make weird decisions. It almost worked; we'll just try again tomorrow!"
The team's final effort was to launch their sprinter in the bunch kick. Farrar won with a clear gap to secend placed Alessandro Bazzana of Team Type 1-Sanofi and Damiano Caruso of Liquigas-Cannondale who placed 3rd.
It was Farrar's first victory since he won a stage in the 2011 Tour de France.
Comprised of 16 teams and 124 riders, including reigning champion Levi Leipheimer and 2011 Tour de France Champion Cadel Evans, the peloton set out on the barely ever flat course which included three KOM's and a long 79km drag up to the highest summit - Lizard Head Pass, before the run to the finish line.
It was a tough day considering even flat roads in Colorado are at an energy sapping high altitude.
After the first interim sprint, 11km from the start of the UCI 2.HC tour, a large group of riders broke free.
With them were Kiwis Josh Atkins (Bontrager Livestrong), George Bennett (RadioShack Nissan) and big hitters Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda riders Tom Danielson, Peter Stetina and Dave Zabriskie, Jens Voigt of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Cannondale.
Atkins took 2nd place in the second interim sprint before the group shrunk to just 10 riders after an attack by Nibali and Danielson heading up Lizard Head Pass.
"Original group was full of GC contender hitters! So I locked in, "Atkins wrote on twitter. "Big group ... confusion in break. Split while I was at the back. Game over. Caught by bunch and spat on the main climb. At least the legs are good. I'll try for another stage. Frustrating day."
Over the top of the pass, Danielson and Stetina broke free, but behind them the motivated, but reduced, peloton was gaining on them. The front of the race was together with 4.5km to go, setting up for the bunch kick.
"This is the first time I've done a US stage race since 2009," said the victorious Farrar. "It's special as an American to race in your own country and have fans that are rooting just for you, for our team. Racing in Colorado is important, and a big bonus for us."
In a near sweep of the jerseys for Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, Farrar took the Exergy Leader Jersey and the Waste Management Sprint Jersey; Danielson took the Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey; and Stetina claimed Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey.
Gavin Mannion of Bontrager Livestrong Team was awarded the Aquadraat Best Young Rider Jersey.
Bennett, who finished with the 57-strong leading bunch, is 4th in that Young Rider classification. Most of the peloton, including Atkins and the other Kiwis (Jeremy Vennell and Patrick Bevin of Bissell Pro Cycling and James Oram of Bontrager Livestrong), finished 12-15min behind.
The USA Pro Challenge continues for five more road stages before ending with a 15.3km time trial.
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