The USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s Stage 3 from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs was one for the sprinters, but today’s Stage 4 will be one for the climbers.
Wednesday’s flat finish resulted in a high-speed field sprint, despite a valiant ride by RadioShack Leopard Trek’s Jens Voigt, who went on a solo breakaway for many miles before he was swallowed by the peloton with less than two miles to go. Cannondale’s Peter Sagan won in the field sprint and Garmin Sharp’s Lachlan Morton kept the yellow jersey, meaning that time gaps between the top riders remained relatively small. That means that today’s course, finishing with climbs on Bachelor Gulch and Beaver Creek, could shake up the overall standings.
“(At Beaver Creek), with such a long and steep climb, there are really opportunities for the general classification leaders to establish a lead, and we can expect to see the peloton significantly fracture on the climb,” said Adam Lueck, Vail Valley Foundation’s senior manager of operations.
Stage 4 starts in Steamboat Springs, beginning with 90 miles of flat rollers. The action is expected to heat up when riders hit the base of Beaver Creek for what is considered one of the hardest climbs of the race.
The new King of the Mountain climb, dubbed “The Brink,” allows riders to score points towards winning the climber’s jersey. This year’s Beaver Creek finish adds a twist and a couple thousand additional feet in elevation gain. Instead of heading straight up Village Road, a relatively straight and gentle climb to the finish, like in 2012, this year riders will veer off on Holden Road. The king of the mountain climb takes the peloton up the grueling grade known to locals as Strawberry Park and Daybreak Ridge. The climb will test riders with an average pitch of 10.3 percent and exceeds 20 percent in sections.
After cresting “The Brink,” riders will navigate a twisting descent down Bachelor Gulch at breakneck speeds before heading up Village Road again, this time to the finish at Beaver Creek Village.
“The Brink represents the defining moment between ultimate victory and suffering the consequences of reaching your physical limits,” said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation and head of the local organizing committee for Vail and Beaver Creek’s stages. “The name also maintains a bond to winter as the fastest ski racers in the world attempt to negotiate The Brink segment of Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey Downhill racecourse each year.”
Fans can watch the action at the spectator-lined finish line, but diehards looking to avoid the crowds can find their way to the top of the KOM to see the climbers fight for the summit. Organizers expect riders to arrive at Beaver Creek around 2:45 p.m. and approach the finish stretch around 3:45 p.m.