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94th UCI win for Katie Compton at Boulder Reservoir

Katie Compton wins the Boulder UCI race at the reservoir, now named the US Open of Cyclocross, for the second year in a row

Katie Compton wins the Boulder UCI race at the reservoir, now named the US Open of Cyclocross, for the second year in a row

Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) claimed a repeat convincing win on Saturday ahead of solid rides by second and third Caroline Mani and Chloe Woodruff at the first of two Boulder weekend UCI races. On an off day, CrossVegas winner Meredith Miller (Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team) missed a pedal at the start and finished seventh.

Raleigh-Clement’s Mani started and ended fast; in a go-big or go-home move with one lap remaining, she attacked the chase group and held on to a gap until the finish line.

Woodruff, who recently won the Grand Junction Off-Road mountain bike event, returned to the venue at Boulder Reservoir where last year she surged into second as a relative newcomer to cyclocross. Now she’s racing as a new member of Stan’s NoTubes Elite Cyclocross Team.

Elite women's holeshot

Elite women’s holeshot

Mani took the holeshot at Boulder Reservoir. Compton was tucked in behind Kona’s Helen Wyman. Miller started in the front row, but lost about ten places to leader Mani after the track narrowed with the first few turns.

According to a report by the Noosa Pro Cyclocross team, Miller’s first lap was fraught with mistakes, including a flip over the handlebars. “I finally got my act together on lap two,” Miller continued. “I started to pick people off pretty consistently from that point. I got into a better groove and calmed down a bit. I was riding alone, so I could pick my own lines rather than follow wheels. As I passed riders, I was able to recollect myself and take a deep breath.”

Meredith Miller looking concerned at the beginning of lap 1

Meredith Miller looking concerned at the beginning of lap 1

Caroline Mani leads lap one

Caroline Mani leads near the end of lap one

British national champion Wyman, Woodruff, and Nicole Duke (Marin-Spy) chased Mani from the reservoir beach while Compton followed them in fourth on course. In the beginning of the second lap Compton gained the lead.

Katie Compton in one of several sand sections. "it wasn’t so bad, what made it hard were the turns in it. So you have to stay on your line, you just have to focus, stay on the rut and hit the line."

Katie Compton in one of several sand sections. “It wasn’t so bad. What made it hard were the turns in the sand. You just have to focus, stay on the rut and hit the line.”

Crystal Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) joined Woodruff and Mani in the chase group.

Chase group of three

Chase group of three

Rachel Lloyd (California Giant Berry Farms / Specialized) steadily worked her way into the chase group to make it four. The effort cost her in the last lap when she couldn’t respond to Woodruff’s attack in pursuit of Mani.

Lloyd caught up to the chase group with two laps to go

Lloyd caught up to the chase group with two laps to go

Meredith Miller was closing in on fifth on course Anthony. Then she flatted in the last lap. Gabby Durrin (Neon Velo Cycling Team) passed her and finished fifth behind fourth place Lloyd.

Meredith Miller flatted in the last lap. Gabby Durrin passed her and finished fifth.

Meredith Miller passed Gabby Durrin then flatted in the last lap and switched bikes

Courtenay McFadden (Gecapital/American Classic) finished ninth after Duke who placed eighth.

Courtenay McFadden

Courtenay McFadden

The Amy D. Foundation chose Erica Zaveta as this year’s scholarship winner. Zaveta will travel with the Raleigh-Clement team this season. She finished twelfth at the reservoir on Saturday after a successful ninth at CrossVegas.

Erica Zaveta with Nicole Novembre and Ksenia Lepikhina

Erica Zaveta with Nicole Novembre and Ksenia Lepikhina

Compton’s husband and mechanic, Mark Legg, said Saturday was Compton’s 94th UCI race win. He’s been counting since 2006.

US Open of Cyclocross women's elite podium (l-r): Caroline Mani 2nd, Katie Compton 1st, Chloe Woodruff 3rd.

US Open of Cyclocross women’s elite podium (l-r): Caroline Mani 2nd, Katie Compton 1st, Chloe Woodruff 3rd.

“I actually felt way better today [than at CrossVegas],” Compton said after the race. “Vegas is tough because it is the first race of the season. I’ve been doing a little bit of intensity but not enough. That grass is just so hard; there is no recovery.

“I definitely felt better today but also the course was way more fun.” After all the bumps on the reservoir course, Compton was grateful for the strip of paved start/finish.

For full results from the US Open of Cyclocross, see the WithoutLimits website.

Meredith Miller Sprints to Victory in CrossVegas

Meredith Miller in the KickIt Cross sandpit at Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team's debut race

Meredith Miller in the KickIt Cross sandpit at Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team’s debut race

[Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team press release]

Las Vegas, NV – September 11, 2014 – Meredith Miller scored the biggest win of her cyclocross career in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday night. In front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 that included the large majority of her new Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team sponsors, Miller edged out ten-time US Cyclocross National Champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) and four-time Olympian Katerina Nash (Luna) in a three-up sprint to win CrossVegas. The 2014/2015 season opener boasted what will likely be the deepest, strongest field Miller will face on American soil this year.

“The result ranks right up with my result from Tabor last year,” said Miller, referencing her sixth place finish at the World Cup last October. “This is by far my biggest win. I’ve won a handful of C1 races in the past but never at this level against such a stacked field and in front of so many people.”

“All of my sponsors are here,” Miller continued. “There were so many people watching online. I’ve given so many interviews. I’ve never won a race of this status before, and wow – it still feels a bit unreal.”

Miller raced brilliantly from start to finish. Making the most of her prime start spot, she was quick off the line and easily able to jump around the riders in front of her when gaps began to open on lap one. An early attack by Nash proved decisive. Compton responded to the challenge from Nash. As the split grew, Miller recognized the danger in the pairing out front and came around Helen Wyman (Kona) to bridge across to the two leaders.

“This race is about patience,” Miller explained. “It’s about making the front group when the split happens and racing smart, but mostly, it’s about being patient.”

“The move went pretty early today,” she added  “I had to jump to close the gap to Katie and Katerina. It was just the three of us for a bit, and then Catherine [Pendral] (Luna) came up to us. That gave Katerina a teammate and changed the dynamic in the group a bit. I wasn’t going to attack when there were two teammates in a group of four.”

The four-rider front group proved evenly matched. Nash and Pendral each put in a few attacks. Their efforts were not enough to dislodge Miller or Compton.

“I did manage to go to the front for a little while, but I was honestly a little awestruck by who I was with,” Miller admitted. “I didn’t want to drop myself by doing too much work too early in the race. I needed to leave enough in the tank to follow wheels if anyone threw down a big acceleration.”

Just outside one lap left to race, Pendral crashed on a pavement section of the course. The incident took her out of contention for the win, leaving three riders in the lead group for the three podium places.

“Catherine took herself out on the sidewalk section,” noted Miller. “It happens every year that someone crashes there, so I knew to be extra cautious. She went down in front of me, but she slid, leaving a gap open for me to get through.”

Meredith closeup

Mental anguish accompanied physical effort in the final lap. While Miller knew she had a lock on the podium barring a super-human effort from Pendral to rejoin the leaders, she was unsure how to best play her cards. She contemplated an attack before ultimately deciding to wait until the final few corners to make her move.

“I wasn’t feeling confident enough to attack Katie or Katerina, so my goal was just to stick with them,” said Miller. “I wanted to lead into the last twisty grass section before the pavement. I was confident that I could get the best result from the position, although that’s not to say I had any idea my best result would be the win.”

“In the end, I was the last one of the three of us through that twisty section,” Miller added. “I tried to pass Katie once or twice because I really wanted to be on the front at the point. I lost my wheel but luckily was able to hold it up somehow.”

Miller was the third rider out of the final corner and onto the finishing stretch of grass. The leading trio treated spectators and online viewers to a nail-biting finale.

“It was just a drag race to the line,” said Miller. “We came out of the last turn, and I was like – oh boy, here we go.”

“I passed Katerina, and I was pretty elated to be in second,” added Miller. “I remember thinking – this is great. This is awesome. I’m in second place in the sprint. I kept on the gas, and I thought – wow, I think I’m going to pass Katie now, too.”

“Then, I did,” Miller said. “I passed Katie, and I won the race.”

Miller was full of praise for the people that paved the way for her historical result. She is only the second American to beat Compton in the last ten years, and the first rider to beat both Nash and Compton in the same race on American soil. Miller credits her teammate and business partner Allen Krughoff and the Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team sponsors for playing a major role in her success.

“Everything went right today,” Miller said. “Going back to June when Allen and I started this team, everything that’s happened has seemed a bit unbelievable. We had Noosa sign on as title sponsor in a pretty unorthodox fashion. All the product sponsors we approached have been so incredibly generous. Our equipment is amazing. The people we’re working with are amazing. Everything has gone right, and nothing has gone wrong.”

“I’ve been in the sport long enough to know how rare that is,” Miller added. “It speaks volumes about the work that Allen and I have done and the sort of support we enjoy from all our team sponsors. To pull it all together tonight for all of them is pretty awesome.”

Powers and Krughoff one – two at KickIt Cross as national champion trains in Colorado

 

Jeremy Powers zips up for victory salute at KickIt Cross

Jeremy Powers zips up for victory salute at KickIt Cross

[updated 9/10/2014]

Sunday, September 7 was a hot day for a hard effort at the first all-day cyclocross event on the Front Range, KickIt Cross.

Streaks of white evaporated sweat trailed down the sides of Jeremy Powers’ face. He’d won the men’s elite race ten minutes earlier with Allen Krughoff in heated pursuit. Nearby at the Rhyolite Park venue in Castle Rock, Colorado, Krughoff pressed a hand on his helmet; streams of sweat spilled out of the pads and onto the pavement.

Krughoff, riding for his new Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team, finished a very solid second ahead of Raleigh-Clement’s Ben Berden.

All three intend to start Cross Vegas tomorrow. KickIt provided important preparation for the national event.

“I don’t want a first race to be Vegas,” Powers said after his Colorado win. Like Krughoff, the national champion begins the season with a new team, although the Aspire Racing kit and bike were still under wraps on Sunday with their debut set for Cross Vegas. For this season, Aspire Racing consists solely of Powers. He’s mentioned previously that the team could grow for the 2015/16 season.

Powers has been in Colorado for about two weeks, but not on vacation. With his annual FasCat Coaching camp scheduled for the last weekend of August and the Boulder UCI races in mid-September, he decided to fashion a training block in Colorado combined with preparing new equipment for the season together with mechanic Tom Hopper who lives near Boulder. The Castle Rock race fit in nicely between the camp and UCI events.

“If you’re going to do the races at altitude and be good at them – like nationals for instance, I need at least two weeks [at altitude],” Powers said. The Colorado plan turned out well. “It’s been successful and fun. The altitude training works for me so it is a good lead-in for my season for sure.”

Early lap leaders' group of four: Allen Krughoff, Tim Allen, Jeremy Powers, Ben Berden

Early lap leaders’ group of four: Allen Krughoff, Tim Allen, Jeremy Powers, Ben Berden

KickIt allowed both men to test new equipment, and for Krughoff also a chance to work with a new mechanic and pit partner in the race environment.

Powers said he’s racing on an all new bike; the only components that remain the same from last season are the saddle and pedals.

“I always want to do one [race] before Vegas to get any cobwebs out,” he said.

“It’s always weird how things work out on the bike. At first when you are just training [it’s working], then when you are racing you are like, ‘I need to make this change or that change.’”

Focus Mares will carry riders for both the Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team and Aspire Racing this season. While Krughoff rode on his new model prior to KickIt, he came to the race with a newly assembled bike with SRAM CX-1 and ENVE tubular disc through axle wheels. During pre-ride he experienced a special moment at the barriers.

“I pick up the bike and it feels like I’m lifting nothing,” Krughoff stated. “It’s unreal… and I’m thinking, ‘this is going to be a great year.’”

Race action

That fast feeling carried over to the start of the KickIt men’s elite race. Krughoff won the holeshot. A lead group formed early in the first lap with the Noosa rider at the front. It included Powers, Berden, and the current single speed national champion, Feedback Sports’ Tim Allen (not riding single speed).

Tim Allen hops, Spencer Powlison runs

Tim Allen hops, Spencer Powlison runs

In lap two or three Allen dropped back to join Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing). Krughoff guided the lead group of three for four laps while Powers and Berden appeared satisfied matching the Colorado rider’s pace.

When Krughoff made a bike change Powers decided to test the results of his altitude training; he surged into the lead, soon opening a ten second gap over Berden and Krughoff. The Noosa rider regained and held onto second place until the finish. Berden lost ground to the pair as the race concluded, but not enough to forfeit third place.

After sixty minutes of racing the national champ won with a 22 second advance. Next to arrive after the top three were Allen, Powlison, Steven Stefko (First City Cycling Team), and Evol Racing’s Ken Benesh. Stefko topped off a strong year in January with third place in the masters 35 – 39 category at ‘cross nationals in Boulder.

Krughoff was content with the overall results from the day – testing fitness, a well-run first outing for the team that included a victory for Meredith Miller, and holding position behind Powers.

“That was confirmation that the fitness is here,” the Noosa rider said about his effort. “From here we have three days ‘till Vegas, and then it’s Boulder. So we’re on. There’s no time to get in better shape. So it’s good.” The US Open of Cyclocross (formerly the Colorado Cross Classic) and the Boulder Cup, Colorado’s two big UCI cyclocross races, occur on September 13 and 14 in Boulder.

Krughoff became Colorado state champion at the same Rhyolite Park venue last December. He likes the terrain there, even though he thought the day’s bumpy riding had contributed to blisters on his hands.

“I really like racing here because they have a lot of elevation to work with. It’s not just one hillside. It’s like a whole valley and John Haley does a really good job laying out the course.

“It’s fun. He changed it up a little bit with this option to go through barriers or go around them. I think it’s cool when people think outside the box. We can use some more of that.”

Vegas bound

He should face an interesting challenge at Cross Vegas, which is adding a sandpit that riders will traverse twice each lap. That’s in addition to last year’s banked curve, stairs, barriers and flyovers. Krughoff placed 19th at the Vegas event in 2013; based on his fitness, he could improve on that this year if that’s his plan.

Jeremy Powers will wear a different Aspire Racing kit at Cross Vegas

Jeremy Powers will wear a different Aspire Racing kit at Cross Vegas

Powers won in Sin City two years ago; last year he placed second to Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony, now Crelan-AA Drink).

“If I can be up in the front and I can have a shot at it that would be excellent,” he said.

It’s hard to tell how things will shake out at the beginning of the cyclocross calendar; a large unknown is the form competitors will carry to Vegas.

“And with [Lars] Van der Haar and Sven Nys coming it’s definitely a good opportunity for me to showcase. So I hope that I am able to, especially being in the national champ’s jersey.”

For full results from KickIt Cross, visit the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website.

Men's elite podium (l-r): Spencer Powlison 5th, Allen Krughoff 2nd, Jeremy Powers 1st, Ben Berden 3rd, Tim Allen 4th

Men’s elite podium (l-r): Spencer Powlison 5th, Allen Krughoff 2nd, Jeremy Powers 1st, Ben Berden 3rd, Tim Allen 4th

Gallery (from multiple men’s races) – Video to come

Meredith Miller gets Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team’s first win

Meredith Miller suggested placing the Amy Dombroski Foundation label on the Noosa kit's inside collar

Meredith Miller suggested placing the Amy Dombroski Foundation label on the Noosa kit’s left inside collar

[updated 9/10/2014]

So much is new for Meredith Miller: just married one week ago, different pre-cyclocross season preparation, and a new team in Noosa Pro Cyclocross. But the form and desire that delivered a hard-fought podium place at nationals last January hasn’t changed; on Sunday she brought Noosa its first win at KickIt Cross in Castle Rock, CO.

“I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen today,” she said post-race, mentioning her wedding and teaching a clinic the day before in Chicago. “The last couple of weeks has been a little bit chaotic and all over the place. But obviously I was OK with it. I just wanted to come out here today and do a dry run for the team really…Everything is new.”

Foremost she intended to gauge the team’s new equipment performance as well as build a race partnership with mechanic Erik Maresjo who will look after her Focus Mares with Daimeon Shanks this season.

“In all the years I’ve been racing I’ve always been on Specialized for ‘cross. So it was a big switch for me. And so far I’ve absolutely loved being on the Focus.” KickIt was Miller’s third outing running SRAM’s CX-1 groupset. “I kept thinking as I was out there how smoothly it was working. It’s so quiet, no chain bouncing around. The bike, the MXP tires from Clement, CX-1, it was all really great.” CX-1 works with a single chain ring.

With conditions nearly entirely dry on Sunday, riders didn’t require many bike changes save for flats. However Miller took the opportunity to rehearse swapping bikes with Maresjo. “I’m always nervous to do bike changes and so I made myself do it today just to practice,” she said. “Everything went off great in the pit.”

Caroline Mani defended and finished second at KickIt Cross

Caroline Mani defended and finished second at KickIt Cross

Miller’s dominance in the women’s elite race provided a comfortable cushion for visiting the pit. Soon after the start the riders bumped off wide pavement onto a narrow section of turf. Miller led from the holeshot to the finish, nearly doubling the gap between her and second place Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement) with each of the four laps.

Boulder Cycle Sport’s Kristin Weber started fast as well. She rode third on course until Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) earned that spot during the second lap. Mani held steady in second through the finish, just over a minute behind Miller. Vestal came in 15 seconds later for third. Weber arrived next after about a minute thirty seconds, followed by Melissa Barker in a new team kit this year, Evol Racing, for fifth.

Evol Racing’s Kate Powlison and Kristen Peterson, Lisa Hudson (Feedback Sports), Rebecca Blatt (Van Dessel), and Tracy Yates (Giant Southwest Racing) completed the top ten.

This year Miller’s ‘cross season preparation diverged considerably from previous years’ models. After competition concluded last winter, she spent one month “pretty much completely off the bike. I don’t remember when I took a break that long,” she said.

Contrary to popular belief at that time, Miller’s “retirement” was only ever from road racing; she hadn’t intended to end her cyclocross career. “Without a contract on the road, I was like, ‘I going to have to get a job and I don’t know what my job is going to look like,’” she explained. “And so I wasn’t quite sure how much time I would have for ‘cross but I knew in some capacity I wanted to keep racing [cyclocross].”

Over the spring and summer she celebrated turning 40 in 2013 by mixing it up with mountain bike competitions, long gravel excursions, and rides while acting as an ambassador for Rapha. In August Miller tackled the Cedar City Grand Prix and Tour of Utah Women’s Edition road races.

“From February to July I was just riding and having fun and not worrying about when I was on my bike and what I was doing that day. That was a really nice change and just a good kind of relaxing way to approach the season.” Toward late summer she reconnected with her coach, Neal Henderson, to begin a more structured program.

Caitlyn Vestal racing the third at KickIt Cross

Caitlyn Vestal racing the third at KickIt Cross

KickIt arrived with a just a handful of nerves as her team’s debut. “It is new colors, I wanted to represent well. Even though it was kind of low key and results weren’t the focus of today, I still wanted to do well.”

Just before the race, she promised new teammate Allen Krughoff as much.

Krughoff had joked with her about the pressure she bore as the first of the two to race wearing the new team’s kit. Don’t embarrass us, he cautioned. In reply she said, “Don’t worry, you’re going to have big shoes to fill.”

And she was right.

Based on the outcome of KickIt, it looks like all systems go for Noosa at Cross Vegas this Wednesday. Miller noted that several women coming off mountain bike worlds who have just peaked should be there, like Katerina Nash, as well as ten-time national champion Katie Compton.

“It’s going to be a really tough field this year,” she said. Then she began an I don’t really know kind of laugh and added, “I hate setting expectations for myself and then being disappointed if I don’t meet them.

“And it’s still early in the season; it’s hard to be like, ‘I’ve got to be on the podium,’ because it’s a long season. And I want to do well in January.”

Meredith wins 2014 KickIt Cross in first ride for Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team

Meredith Miller wins 2014 KickIt Cross in first ride for Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team

Gallery (several categories of women’s races)

Back to Basics an early cyclocross season favorite

80 took the start in the men's B race at the 2014 Back to Basics race #1 in Golden, Colorado

80 riders took the start in the men’s B race at the 2014 Back to Basics race #1 in Golden, Colorado

[updated 9/5/2014]

A seemingly endless flotilla of men in their teens through age 64 swung down the hill and onto curvy dirt paths cut from a field flush with yellow-blooming late summer rabbitbrush, native grasses, and clumps of prickly pear cactus. They were the men’s B class, a field of 80 testing their first week of September fitness at the first of four weekly races in the Back to Basics series in Golden, Colorado.

First race happiness

First race happiness

The newbies stood out; they raced on mountain bikes while the majority whipped around on lighter weight ‘cross bikes.

But Back to Basics is the ideal place for newbies. The registration fees are low and many riders view the series as a tune-up instead of dog-eat-dog competition. Back to Basics Health Center, Feedback Sports, and Pedal Pushers Racing sponsor the series. In total about 200 riders showed up to begin their cyclocross season.

Rebecca Blatt raced the women's A and the men's A races at Back to Basics 1

Rebecca Blatt raced the women’s A and the men’s A races at Back to Basics 1

On a plot of land sandwiched between a youth detention center and golf course near the foot of South Table Mountain, the course differs some from last year. That downhill is new; it passes by the previously used sharp dip under the heirloom cottonwood trees at the west end of the course. Off-camber, the descent requires a little more finesse. The south end of the circuit includes more off-camber terrain on a hillside which comes before the railroad tie run-up. Start and finish still take place on the center grassy field with a single barrier bordering the youth center and double barriers to the west – local Tim Allen’s playground for bunny hops.

The course represents yet another year’s improvement by promoter and racer Lee Waldman who took compliments as the action wound down toward sunset. How does he feel about the new trail? “I love it,” he said. “It’s my course.”

Two hundred or so riders won’t dispute that statement of ownership; Waldman has labored for years over the course. But they do love it too.

Lee Waldman on the Golden cyclocross course

Lee Waldman on the Golden cyclocross course

Gallery

 

Bike races just wouldn’t be the same with them

On Mclain Flats, east side of Aspen, 2014 USA Pro Challenge stage 1

On Mclain Flats, east side of Aspen, 2014 USA Pro Challenge stage 1

The USA Pro Challenge and the riders who contest it wouldn’t be as successful without the team and other staff that support them. That’s why US Cycling Report published three interviews with non-riders during the Colorado race – a sport director, mechanic, and race announcer. See the links below with hints about what makes these folks worthy of attention.

Best part of a sports director's job: Kiel Reijnen wins 2014 USA Pro Challenge stage 1

Best part of a sports director’s job: Kiel Reijnen wins 2014 USA Pro Challenge stage 1

Ever wonder what a director says from the car to a rider in the breakaway? See how one of the few women sport directors in men’s professional cycling encourages her riders. “In the Sport Director’s Car

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Ian Sherburne (middle) with Tejay van Garderen and Jackson Stewart after their Vail TT win

Ian Sherburne (middle) with Tejay van Garderen and Jackson Stewart after their Vail TT win

Some might think bike mechanics only know their way around a frame and some grease. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “The Mechanic-Rider Bond

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Brad Sohner interviews Kiel Reijnen after Stage 1, 2014 USA Pro Challenge

Brad Sohner interviews Kiel Reijnen after Stage 1, 2014 USA Pro Challenge

Brad Sohner didn’t set out to be a race announcer. Find out how he got there. “Voice of the Race

USA Pro Challenge team presentation a calm before the Colorado storm

Jens Voigt supporters will line the Colorado roads to celebrate the German's last race of his career

Jens Voigt supporters will line the Colorado roads to celebrate the German’s last race of his career

There’s something about a red carpet that makes people feel special. Or maybe it was the five year-old boy who wore a Garmin-Sharp jersey that fell to his knees and waylaid them with a sharpie held high.

Either way, the riders on the 16 teams in this year’s USA Pro Challenge smiled as they processed along the red carpet through a cheering crowd brandishing cameras at the team presentation. Children and adults held up their palms and guys from superstar level to neo-pro greeted them with low and high-fives.

For that one fine Saturday evening in Snowmass, Colorado while the sun dipped behind the ski slopes, the athletes could suspend all thoughts of 550 miles of Rocky Mountain suffering on the horizon and soak up the love.

The seven-day Colorado race begins today with the Stage 1 circuit around Aspen. It continues to a sharp uphill conclusion at Crested Butte, offers a new summit finish on Monarch Mountain in Stage 3, and then visits Breckenridge followed by the red rock of Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. Saturday’s uphill time trial in Vail, Colorado will help determine who stands on the podium in Denver on Sunday, August 24.

It’s Jens Voigt’s final race of his career – or so the Trek Factory Racing man says, which means lots of attacks will be in order as well as a special celebration on the final day.

The BMC Racing team will have its hands full trying to defend Tejay van Garderen‘s 2013 overall win against the likes of Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), Rafał Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Leopold Konig (Team NetApp-Endura), and others.

Follow along with the TourTracker or live television coverage or a live feed on cyclingfans.com where there’s a link to the start list.

Gallery

Track to triumph at Tour of Utah Women’s Edition

Inaugural Tour of Utah Women's Edition podium (l-r) Mandy Heintz 2nd, Coryn Rivera 1st, Meredith Miller 3rd

Inaugural Tour of Utah Women’s Edition podium (l-r) Mandy Heintz 2nd, Coryn Rivera 1st, Meredith Miller 3rd

The story is timeless. It’s about payback for hard efforts that fall short through no fault of our own. But mostly, it’s about the things we do for love. Both took center stage at the first Tour of Utah Women’s Edition p/b Play Hard Give Back on August 6th.

Over sixty motivated women took the track at Miller Motorsports Park for 75 minutes of sweeping turns linked by straightaways while the men raced Stage 3 of the seven-day Utah tour.

Women's peloton in the vast Miller Motorsports Park

Women’s peloton in the vast Miller Motorsports Park

Racing around and around on a mostly flat, wind-swept expanse of track set in chalky-white earth might seem less appealing than tracing historic Pony Express byways and the edge of Utah Lake like the men. But Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare) didn’t see it that way.

“It’s so fun! I’m really excited….It’s two miles of jwu, jwu (the sound Powers makes while simulating flowing S-shapes with her arms, fingers twined together),” she said in Cedar City two days earlier. “It’s still flat but lots of corners so it will be fun.”

And even less boring for the multi-national champion who, as was planned two days prior at the Cedar City Grand Prix, would take the last pull to lead-out teammate Coryn Rivera for the win.

In Cedar City a damaged wheel ended Rivera’s race early. With her teammate missing in action in the last lap of the criterium, Powers took charge and claimed victory.

Two days later at the Tour of Utah Women’s Edition race Powers and her UnitedHealthcare teammates chased down a solo rider, Anne Perry (DNA Cycling p/b K4), and delivered Rivera to the line. The young woman’s win at the motorsports park radiated redemption after the Cedar City mishap. “It’s good to actually deliver for my team and do well, have a nice result,” she said.

Meredith Miller: I was like, OK, I’m going to be the representative for the team today and do the best I can and was lucky to pull it off for the last podium spot.

Meredith Miller: “I was like, OK, I’m going to be the representative for the team today and do the best I can and was lucky to pull it off for the last podium spot.”

To her right on the finish line Mandy Heintz (Guru Cycles p/b Haute Wheels Racing) from Houston, Texas got second. Her result was hard-fought even before the race had begun. Heintz, 33 years-old, started the Guru team this year and has raced in the pro women’s peloton for just that amount of time.

“Words can’t describe the feeling,” Heintz said about her team’s result. “It’s been such a long year, a very rewarding year. A lot of hard work. A lot of sacrifice. That’s what people don’t understand, is how much sacrifice goes into, not only racing at a pro level, but all of us have a life and some things in our life get put on the back burner from jobs to families, everything.

“It’s a lot of bittersweet feelings. It’s good. My girls sacrificed themselves, their jobs, their families, their spouses, their partners, to be here, and I couldn’t have done it without them.” Five women with an average age of about 35 race for the team. Laura Van Gilder guest rode for the team in Utah, finishing fourth after Pepper Palace’s Meredith Miller in third. Guru is a bike manufacturer out of Montreal, Canada and supplies the women with custom-fit to-a-person road and time trial bikes.

For Heintz personally, assembling the team and preparing to race at a high level has come with a cost to relationships, she said. She has decided to reduce time at work as a physical therapist to concentrate on improving herself as a competitive cyclist.

Her podium result just behind the best young rider at La Course by Le Tour de France came as a shock but also a confirmation of the team’s collective efforts over the past months.

“In our first year, our first race was Redlands,” she said. “We were happy to be there. And now we’re not just happy to be here; we belong here.”

Breanne Nalder off the front

Breanne Nalder off the front

Any woman trying to establish a breakaway at the motorsports park faced an especially difficult task. According to Mike Newbury, a coach/soigneur working for the Vanderkitten team, staying away on the flat course in the wind required “big power” against a field containing women who were all racing at the same level.

Breanne Nalder (DNA Cycling p/b K4) from Salt Lake City found that energy and for it won the most aggressive rider prize. When asked about the power she expended to separate from the group, Nalder acknowledged the effort as significant.

“But I loved it, every moment of it,” she continued. “That’s why I love to bike race: you put yourself in the hurt locker and hope that it pulls through for the team.”

Coryn Rivera wins Tour of Utah Women's Edition. "[Winning] is special because we’re here for the first women’s edition race."

Coryn Rivera wins Tour of Utah Women’s Edition. “[Winning] is special because we’re here for the first women’s edition race.”

Gallery (to come)

A confident Tom Danielson wins a bigger and tougher Tour of Utah

Alex Howes and Phil Gaimon watch Tom Danielson receive the 2014 Tour of Utah yellow jersey on Powder Mountain

Alex Howes and Phil Gaimon watch Tom Danielson receive the 2014 Tour of Utah yellow jersey on Powder Mountain

The 2014 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah concluded with Garmin-Sharp’s Tom Danielson winning the overall for the second consecutive year.

The race unfolded over seven days instead of last year’s six and with a 32 percent increase in elevation gain for a total of 57,000 feet (17,374 meters). The stage ending on Powder Mountain for the first time threw more steep terrain at the riders and provided a thrilling uphill finish for spectators.

Danielson said the race in total was “way harder” than last year’s ninth edition, citing the entire climb past Brian Head resort, Powder Mountain, crosswinds that stirred up nerves and siphoned off energy, and 2,000 extra feet (610 meters) of climbing on the way to the Snowbird finish.

“But the field was arguably stronger as well and that made much more aggressive racing. You saw all those big groups, lots of chasing,” the Garmin-Sharp rider added.

“I don’t think we ever really stopped and chatted very much this year. Maybe today just was the first time; we kind stopped for a pee and it was like, whoa guys, that was crazy. Did we just go 45 kilometers in 45 minutes, wait, is that 60. Whoa. So yea, it’s been pretty fast.”

Tom Danielson greets Park City crowd

Tom Danielson greets Park City crowd

But the primary difference between the two years resided in the man who won.

This year Danielson appeared serenely confident. Missing was the lingering self-doubt he referred to last August that had held him back from taking charge prior to the 2013 race. That confidence translated into calm decisiveness under pressure, a sense of control that likely raised the confidence and dedication of his young team in Utah.

For example, on Saturday Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) drove a breakaway that at one point gained enough minutes to place Evans in the virtual lead. When asked if he was at any time concerned about the break threatening his lead, Danielson quickly replied, “No.”

He tried not to focus on anything that could upset his bid to win a second time. Instead, he said, he focused on what he could control and on executing the team’s plan each day which included specific tasks for each teammate.

“Really that was the key strategy of the week, was making tasks and accomplishing them and not worrying about what other people are doing.”

In fact the only time the overall leader appeared concerned was Sunday morning on the last day of the event. Having missed the rider entrance to the start line in Park City, he couldn’t immediately find a way through the massive Park City crowds and onto the course.

Another change from year to year in the Tour of Utah is the crowd size. Every year it gets bigger.

The 2015 Utah tour is scheduled for August 3 to 9 and the event’s president, Larry H. Miller, indicated the race could visit parts of Utah it hasn’t previously seen.

2014 Tour of Utah overall podium (l-r): Chris Horner 2nd, Tom Danielson 1st, Winner Anacona Gomez 3rd

2014 Tour of Utah overall podium (l-r): Chris Horner 2nd, Tom Danielson 1st, Winner Anacona Gomez 3rd

Gallery

Lessons from Utah: how to succeed in bike racing, the Euser-Reijnen way

Lucas Euser 8th at Snowbird after the entire Stage 6 in a breakaway

Lucas Euser 8th at Snowbird after racing the entire Stage 6 in a breakaway

Kiel Reijnen leaned over his bike just past the finish line at Snowbird, absolutely spent from an effort that had actually concluded 37 kilometers before he arrived at the end of Stage 6.

Since day one of the 2014 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Reijnen and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling teammate Lucas Euser had been looking for an opportunity to race in the breakaway together. It arrived on Stage 6 which offered a hilly course designed for Euser’s climbing skills.

“When we start uphill like that it’s really good for me. I don’t do well when it’s one punchy climb at the finish like Powder Mountain; that’s a little bit tough for me,” Euser said at the post-race press conference. “But when it’s hard all day, climb after climb after climb, it’s usually when I do the best.”

Kiel Reijnen chasing Jens after the opening  Utah Stage 6 kilometers

Kiel Reijnen chasing Jens Voigt on Little Big Mt. after the start of Stage 6

After the break of 15 had established almost from kilometer zero with both men a part of it, Reijnen rode hard at the front with several BMC Racing Team riders. His job: drive the break at an insane pace to give Euser a chance to contest the win at Snowbird from a small group.

“He [Reijnen] came back to me a couple of times and said, ‘Man I am so done. My finish line is the bottom of Guardsman. You go from there,’” Euser recounted. “I was like, that’s fine.”

Euser then attacked Guardsman Pass and the remaining 37 kilometers to the finish line with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Sportswear), and Trek Factory Racing’s Riccardo Zoidl. Evans descended like a rocket and Euser followed close behind, placing his hand on the BMC rider’s back occasionally to signal his presence.

The previous day on Stage 5 Euser and the UnitedHealthcare team whipped up the speed at the front of the field to place Reijnen in a good position to sprint for the win. Stage 5 represented the last chance for a sprint finish and Reijnen placed third. He missed out on Stage 3 and Stage 1 in Cedar City where the rise to the line seemed made for him. Minutes after the race ended in Cedar City he pedaled slowly down a street near the arrival arch, disappointment weighting his shoulders.

With each day comes new opportunity and on Stage 6 the two men seized it on arguably the toughest of seven days of competition in Utah. For his effort that day Euser would won the most aggressive rider jersey.

Lucas Euser in the most aggressive rider jersey

Lucas Euser in the most aggressive rider jersey

The lead group of four held off the GC chasers until the very end. With about two kilometers remaining Euser tried to go solo.

Evans, Rosskopf, and Zoidl caught him and the energy Euser spent took its toll; he couldn’t respond to the threesome’s subsequent attacks.

“I thought I could get a jump on [Evans] and not have to go to the line with four guys. These are guys that I know can out-sprint me. It was kind of all or nothing.”

Euser came home eighth. It was the fourth consecutive year he’d placed high on the stage. In the parking lot after the finish he rolled slowly on his bike under the hand of his soigneur as he processed the last couple of kilometers. He pounded the handlebars.

“I thought I could catch them off guard and it was a bad idea,” he said then, because he got dropped.

But later teammate Reijnen indicated his satisfaction with their overall efforts.

And in the end, Euser found similar satisfaction in a day he shared with a man that lives within five blocks of his home in Boulder and with whom he’d trained during the three weeks prior to the Tour of Utah.

“The dude was awesome. That guy was unbelievable,” Euser said of Reijnen while he ate a post-race recovery meal of rice, eggs, and parmesan cheese.

“You saw three BMC guys and my teammate Kiel put their finish line at the bottom of Guardsman Pass,” he said. “There’s nothing more selfless than that.”

And ultimately Euser remembered his part of the partnership. “I said yesterday I’m going to go from the gun and I’m not going to stop until I cross the line. I think I did that,” he said.

“You always go back and think: I could change this, I could change that. But ultimately I had a lot of fun out there. I had a smile on my face all day.”

Kiel Reijnen after Stage 6 finish at Snowbird

Kiel Reijnen after Stage 6 finish at Snowbird

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