Peak performance required in USA Pro Challenge |

Peak performance required in USA Pro Challenge

John Henderson
The Denver Post
Vail, CO Colorado
FILE - This July 22, 2011, file photo shows Tom Danielson of the U.S., front, as they climb Alpe d'Huez during the 19th stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Alpe d'Huez, Alps region, France. Danielson has been beset throughout his decade-long pro career by injuries and illnesses, the banes of cycling. But the 33-year-old Danielson, who has lived in Boulder, Colo., since he was a teenager, has finally pedaled to the top level of the sport. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

DURANGO, Colorado – Tom Danielson returned here Saturday as, Fort Lewis College president Dene Thomas proclaimed, “our favorite son.” Fort Lewis College’s 2001 collegiate mountain bike champion has gone on to fame and fortune in pro cycling, not to mention become a local Yoda when it comes to the USA Pro Challenge.

In front of a packed concert hall at his alma mater, the contender for Boulder-based Team Garmin-Sharp held court on the Pro Challenge toughening up in its second year. The race, which begins here Monday, added two mountaintop finishes to the one at Mt. Crested Butte from a year ago.

Mt. Crested Butte isn’t exactly l’Alpe d’Huez, but look at a year ago. When was order established? It was on Stage 1 when Levi Leipheimer won at Mt. Crested Butte to earn the yellow jersey the first time.

“Initially when you look at a route and see a monstrosity of a climb, you see a short one and you look at the short one and say, ‘Oh, nothing’s going to happen on that one,’ ” Danielson said. “You look at the huge one and go, ‘Oh, people are going to be all over the place.’ But look at last year on Independence Pass. There were 30 people there.

“Look at the short ones at Crested Butte where Levi won. There were ones and twos all over the place. That was the biggest time gap. You have to be realistic. Altitude does change things. You go once to your limit, then you go back underneath your limit.”

Mt. Crested Butte’s finishing climb is only 1.2 miles. The new finishes at Beaver Creek and Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder are 2.5 miles and 3.5 miles, respectively. …

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