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Rohan Dennis blazed to the win on stage 5 of the USA Pro Challenge, tackling the 8.5-mile time trial course in 18:11:23. He extended his lead in the general classification to 44 seconds over teammate Brent Bookwalter, while Canadian Rob Britton (SmartStop) rose in the overall standings to third, sitting at 1:31 back from the Australian.
“I felt worse today [at the bottom of Moonstone Road] than I did yesterday, that’s for sure,” Dennis said. “I got to the bottom of it and it’s about four minutes and I said, ‘you just gotta pace yourself here.’ You can only gain three or four seconds on the descent so really whoever gets to the top the fastest wins.”
Dennis crested the climb some 36 seconds faster than the rest of the field, allowing him to take caution on the steep and twisting finishing kilometers back to downtown Breckenridge.
Top 10, stage 4
1. Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), in 18:11:23
2. Rob Britton (SMartStop), at 0:27
3. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), at 0:31
4. Dan Eaton (Axeon), at 0:38
5. Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly), at 0:39
6. Taylor Phinney, (BMC Racing), at 0:39
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon), at 0:47
8. Lachlan Norris (Drapac), at 0:48
9. Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts), at 0:48
10. Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Garmin), at 1:07
Top 10, overall
1. Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing)
2. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), at 0:44
3. Rob Britton (SmartStop), at 1:31
4. Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly), at 1:49
5. Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly), at 1:53
6. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon), at 1:58
7. Lachlan Norris (Drapac), at 2:02
8. Toms Skujins (Hincapie Racing), at 2:08
9. Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural), at 2:13
10. Julien Bernard (Trek Factory Racing), at 2:14
A number of early riders bested one another in succession before Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts) became the first rider to go under 19 minutes, doing so by a mere second, with a time of 18:59.
Bobridge’s time would not last long, as stage 1 winner Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) bested Bobridge by nine seconds, finishing in 18:50.
But Phinney’s best time would not last much longer, as Dan Eaton of the development squad Axeon Cycling stunned the field and went one second faster than Phinney, the two-time national time trial champion.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Eaton said. “I came into the day feeling good, my teammates were confident in me, especially after my ride yesterday when I was able to make the front group. So, I was feeling confident on Moonstone [Road]. I really feel like I paced it right. I hit the climb with everything I had and pretty much exploded at the top. ”
The young guns continued to set searing times, with Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly) coming in one second back from Eaton, in 18:51.
Soon after, Rob Britton (SmartStop) established a new best time at 18:38.
“We knew the uphill finish on stage 2 and this stage were the only real selective stages,” Britton said. “I’ve been riding my time trail bike a lot, been warming down on it every day just so that I was comfortable on it, and I felt really good this morning.”
Dennis was the last to start, but caught and passed Rob Squire (SmartStop) on the climb of Moonstone Road, erasing the two-minute advantage he had at the start in under six miles.
Squire finished 2:42 down, the last rider to finish the race, falling outside the top 10 overall.
“It wasn’t great by any means but, hey, I still finished, I think I’m still inside time-cut,” Squire said with a laugh. “I’m here to fight another day.”
On Saturday, the men’s peloton will ride 102 miles from Loveland to Fort Collins, a route that includes a difficult climb up Rist Canyon, which tops out some 33 miles before the finish. A few uncategorized climbs on the roads to Fort Collins will offer a launching pad before the finish downtown.
On his chances to keep his podium position, Britton was cautious.
“Tomorrow there are still opportunities for anything to happen, it’s not straightforward,” he said. “Yesterday Cannondale put the race into the gutter quickly, and if the wind had been a few degrees more crosswind than it could have been a heck of a lot more damage. I don’t’ think tomorrow will be a walk in the park, it’s last day to shake things up.”
Neal Rogers contributed to this report from Breckenridge.