COLORADO SPRINGS — Jens Voigt made the kind of breakaway he’s become known for on Thursday in Stage 4 of the USA Pro Challenge, taking off after summiting the climb at the Garden of the Gods on lap three of the four-lap circuit in an audacious attempt to win a stage in his final professional cycling race.
But legs chugging and laboring along in sight of the finish line, he could not hold on.
The peloton charged past him inside half a mile of the 70.3-mile stage into downtown Colorado Springs, denying Voigt the glory of a stage win as he ends a 33-year cycling career at the Pro Challenge.
“In the team meeting in the bus, I made it pretty clear that I was go today,” Voigt said. “A short stage like that was made for me. It was hard, but it didn’t have a killer climb.
“It’s the same old story. Me against all odds. I gave it all I had. I don’t think I could have done anything different or better. I was working as hard as I could on the flats and uphill. 800 meters too short.”
Cannondale Pro sprinter Elia Viviani of Italy — who said he planned to sign a contract he was offered on the new Colorado-based team for Slipstream Sports — won the stage in the furious sprint into downtown. Viviani won two stages in the 2011 Pro Challenge into Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.
‘Shut Up Legs!’
All along the course, Voigt’s legion of American fans held up signs declaring, “Shut Up Legs!” — the phrase the gregarious German rider says when explaining what he’s thinking on the bike while in the breakaway. Some urged the 42-year-old rider to reconsider his plans to retire.
But the peloton shows no mercy, even for a man as well-liked as Voigt.
“The confidence is high, but nothing is set in stone,” yellow jersey leader Tejay van Garderen said. “Today we were going through all of the worst-case scenarios. You have to be careful and stay attentive and not have a bad day. The race isn’t over until we get to Denver.”
Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing Team held onto the overall lead and has a 20-second advantage leading into today’s fifth day of racing, which ends in Breckenridge.
“Today worked out better than we could have imagined,” said van Garderen. “With such a short stage, we thought there could be attacks all day. Thankfully we were able to keep it controlled.”