Kiel Reijnen spoiled the climbers’ party on Wednesday, clawing his way back to the front group after a trip over the fearsome Independence Pass climb. The UnitedHealthcare speedster was dropped on the pass but kept his cool. He reconnected with the leaders and sprinted clear of a select group on the Aspen, Colorado finish straight, reprising his stage win from last year’s USA Pro Challenge.
“Unreal. My team was so good,” Reijnen said at the finish of the 101.4-mile race. “I wasn’t the strongest guy out there today. I was definitely in difficulty on Independence. … I popped with a couple K to go on Independence, and Jani [Brajkovic] stayed right with me. … We made it back to the front with plenty of time to spare.”
Top 10, stage 3
- 1. Kiel REIJNEN, UNITEDHEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM, in 3:56:52
- 2. Rohan DENNIS, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
- 3. Ruben ZEPUNTKE, TEAM CANNONDALE – GARMIN, at :00
- 4. Logan OWEN, AXEON CYCLING TEAM, at :00
- 5. Julian David ARREDONDO MORENO, TREK FACTORY RACING, at :00
- 6. Ryan ANDERSON, OPTUM P/B KELLY BENEFIT STRATEGIES, at :00
- 7. Dion SMITH, HINCAPIE RACING TEAM, at :00
- 8. Toms SKUJINS, HINCAPIE RACING TEAM, at :00
- 9. Brent BOOKWALTER, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
- 10. Marco CANOLA, UNITEDHEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM, at :00
Top 10 overall
- 1. Brent BOOKWALTER, BMC RACING TEAM, in 12:13:02
- 2. Rohan DENNIS, BMC RACING TEAM, at :06
- 3. Jonathan CLARKE, UNITEDHEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM, at :10
- 4. Hugh CARTHY, CAJA RURAL-SEGUROS RGA, at :10
- 5. Robbie SQUIRE, HINCAPIE RACING TEAM, at :23
- 5. Robbie Squire, HINCAPIE RACING TEAM, at :13
- 6. Lachlan MORTON, JELLY BELLY P/B MAXXIS, at :25
- 7. Jaime ROSON, CAJA RURAL-SEGUROS RGA, at :27
- 8. Davide FORMOLO, TEAM CANNONDALE – GARMIN, at :31
- 9. Julian ARREDONDO, TREK FACTORY RACING, at :33
- 10. Julien Bernard, TREK FACTORY RACING, at :38
A group of 11 went off the front early. As the break started up the base of Independence Pass, three riders attacked: Dion Smith (Hincapie Racing), Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts), and Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing).
The lead trio reached the first hairpin of the pass 35 seconds ahead of the chasers and 2:30 ahead of the peloton, with about 25 miles to go.
Didier launched an attack with a little under 24 miles left and quickly got a gap. Back in the peloton, Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) made a solo move of his own. He was caught, but Didier carried on alone. With Rohan Dennis (BMC) again driving the peloton, all but two chasers were brought back.
Nearing the top of the climb, Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) made a blistering attack. He rode over the summit not far behind Didier and caught him with under 17 miles left, but the peloton was breathing down their necks and made the catch.
The group had grown in size by the time it reached the bottom of the descent. BMC controlled the pace at the front of the 25-man group.
Just outside of three miles to go, Bobridge and Dennis attacked. Those two were caught; then the counterattacks started to fly. First it was Morton, then it was his Jelly Belly teammate Gavin Mannion. UnitedHealthcare took over at the front and settled things down, working for its sprinter, Reijnen, who had caught the front group after the descent.
BMC took charge again with one kilometer to go, with Michael Schar delivering a monster pull on the front.
Axeon’s Logan Owen hit out early in the sprint, just after the final left-hand corner. Reijnen jumped off Canola’s wheel and quickly hopped onto Owen’s. Then, he made one final kick and handily won the sprint. Dennis was second and Ruben Zepuntke (Cannondale-Garmin) finished third.
“I just carried my speed into that last corner, and I came out a lot faster than they did,” said Owen. “I just decided I had the momentum, and I might as well go. No point in waiting. Waiting never wins.”
“I was a bit on my own for the sprint,” said Reijnen. “I expected to be. And then Marco [Canola] just came back out of nowhere and led me out. Logan jumped early. It was a really good spot to jump. It was a tough corner to judge. I was worried that closing to him was gonna cost me. I think everyone was pretty fried from being up high today.”
The race returns to Independence Pass Thursday as stage 4 rides 126 miles, climbing that KOM right out of the gate, as well as Hoosier Pass before the finish in Breckenridge.
“It was not a selective day on the whole as it could have been. We had a lot of headwind,” said Bookwalter. “The headwind went a long way to making the group bigger, neutralizing some of the attacks.
“I’m feeling great actually I’m feeling really good. Not the easiest recovery at altitude. We have a great vibe on the team. That goes a long way.”
Neal Rogers contributed to this report from Aspen.