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Squire seeks respect with USA Pro Challenge podium in his sights

Robbie Squire of Hincapie Racing is third overall entering Friday's time trial, but he says the peloton hasn't been kind to him.

BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado (VN) — Heading into Friday’s stage 5 time trial in Breckenridge, the top three riders of the USA Pro Challenge are a Tour de France maillot jaune wearer, a veteran super domestique, and… Robbie Squire?

You heard that right. American Robbie Squire, 25, is having the ride of his life in Colorado, sitting third overall at 26 seconds down on Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing).

The Hincapie Racing rider put in a monstrous, late-race attack on Moonstone Road into Breckenridge Thursday, shattering the front group and forcing Dennis to leave behind his teammate, race leader Brent Bookwalter, in order to chase Squire down. From there, Dennis went on to solo to victory, while Bookwalter caught Squire on the descent and out-sprinted him for second place.

“I remembered doing this climb last year,” Squire said. “I remembered the suffering … turning and going up, further and further. It was two pitches more than I was hoping. The crowds were so far down the hill, I thought I was going to crest sooner than I did.”

Still, Squire’s ride moved him from fifth overall to third, 26 seconds behind Dennis and 13 seconds behind Bookwalter. And while there are still three hard days of racing left, Squire’s current form and aggressive racing bode well for an overall podium finish in Denver on Sunday.

Either way, it’s been an impressive week for the 6-foot-1, 150-pound rider from Utah who has bounced from team to team and battled with health issues over the past five years as he’s sought to capitalize on the potential he first showed with an under-23 national road title in 2011.

After two years with Slipstream Sports at the Chipotle-First Solar development team, Squire did a short-lived stint with the Italian team Ceramica Flaminia-Fondriest squad in 2013. That fell apart quickly, and he joined Amore & Vita for the remainder of the 2013 season. He spent last year with Jamis-Hagens Berman before joining Hincapie Racing this year.

Squire finished ninth overall at the Tour of Utah earlier this month, and looks set to improve on that result in Colorado.

“The biggest thing is the confidence boost this team has put behind me,” Squire said. “When you are having health issues, it’s easy to get into a downward spiral, but from the beginning of the year, the team has had confidence in me.”

A lack of respect?

On Wednesday, after Squire finished 15th in Aspen and held his fifth overall position, he was asked if he was “quietly” moving into podium contention. His answer was as surprising as it was defiant.

“If you were in the bunch, you’d see it’s not so quiet,” he said. “Everyone likes to give me a hard time. Everyone knows my name, and they love to hate. Whatever.”

Asked for clarification, he answered, “People like to ask me what I’m doing, riding at the front, that sort of stuff, ‘show some respect’… on the climb, at the base of the climb, people don’t like to give us wheels. But hey, do what you want? We’re here to race bikes. I’m here to race bikes. It’s a bike race. Some people like to tell me how to race my bike, but … whatever. I don’t care about them.”

Though Squire preferred not to name any riders or teams that were hassling him, the intonation was clear — since winning the first stage and taking the yellow jersey, the team controlling the front of the peloton has been BMC Racing.

Squire’s wasn’t the first complaint about interactions between UCI WorldTeams and domestic teams at this Pro Challenge. On Thursday, Squire’s teammate Robin Carpenter took to Twitter to vocalize his displeasure over the actions of some WorldTour riders in Colorado:

Also on Thursday, on the early ascent of Independence Pass, Trek Factory Racing’s Laurent Didier could be seen clearly elbowing Jamis rider Daniel Jaramillo as the Colombian rider attempted to pass on the inside of a turn in the battle for KOM points. The effect of Didier’s movement left, and the elbow, caused Jaramillo to run off the road and crash.

Regardless of the dynamics between the bigger-budget WorldTeams and the smaller-budget domestic teams, Squire is confident heading into the time trial that he would hold his podium position among GC contenders.

“I’ve been on the podium before at UCI races — the little Latin American races, in the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala,” he said. “It’s nice, it’s one on one, and I think the TT course is good for me. It’s not pan flat, out and back, it’s got a bit of a kick in it. I think the steepest hill we climb this entire race is in the time trial.”

Asked if he felt his options for winning were limited — because of his GC position, he won’t be able to ride into breakaways, and it will be almost impossible to unseat both Dennis and Bookwalter for the GC victory — Squire seemed unfazed.

“Every day, I’m trying to win,” he said after stage 3. “I tried to win today, I’m trying to win tomorrow. I think at altitude, the breakaways are sometimes forced. It’s too hard. BMC is strong as hell, but there’s always a chance, with this parcours, to force something. I think our team is known for attacking, and for racing, and we’re going to try to race, regardless of what the formula typically is.”