DENVER, Colorado (VN) — The cool temperatures from the Stage 2 Breckenridge start did not follow riders down Interstate 70 to Denver for Stage 3. The team buses glimmered in the heat and riders hovered in whatever shade they could find in the massive parking lot hosting Velorama in Denver’s River North Art District. Absent were the typical warm-up trainers outside the team buses. Like Stage 2, big climbs would factor into the day, but the high temperatures along with a stretch of gravel would make for an entirely different dynamic.
Yet riders changed their bikes very little, with a fairly consistent composition of 11-30 cassettes (some bold climbers returned to the more typical 11-28-tooth gear combination). 54-tooth cogs were nearly ubiquitous during stage two, but most bikes were outfitted with a more typical 53-tooth ring for stage 3. “We’re just running a normal 53/39 [tooth cog in the front],” said Axeon Hagens Berman’s Logan Owen. “It’s going to be a long climb. It does get steep on the dirt, actually, so it will be useful up there. It’s definitely different than the first day. I had a 55 on for the first day because it was a very fast finish. Some guys might opt for a 54 today, but the finish is a little gradually uphill, so I don’t think it will be necessary.”
Despite a looming section of gravel and high-speed descents in the mountains west of Denver, Brent Bookwalter (BMC) and Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) returned to rim-brake-equipped bikes, while Lawson Craddock (Cannondale-Drapac) stuck with his disc-brake-equipped Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod. Trek representatives said Reijnen made his decision based not on the brakes but on the bike: He switched from Trek’s lightweight Emonda that he rode during stage 2 to Trek’s aero bike, the Madone, in anticipation of a high-speed sprint finish. The Madone is not currently available with disc brakes.
While that gravel section could play into the race, team mechanics didn’t seem too concerned about it. 25-millimeter race tires adorned almost all race bikes, though it was a common refrain throughout the pits: We’ll run lower tire pressures for a bit more compliance over the rough stuff. But the pressure change wouldn’t be too dramatic: one BMC mechanic noted tire pressures would not drop below 7 bar (about 100 psi). Riders seemed ready to trust their team mechanics for tire pressure guidance. “I have no idea,” Owen said when asked about his tire pressure. “If it was cyclocross it would be a little different, but not for the road. I trust the mechanics. They know what they’re doing.”