Two buddies came down the straightaway in Aspen, Colorado gunning for the stage win and first leaders jersey in the US Pro Cycling Challenge. Keil Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare) and Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) took it to the line.
They both live in Boulder and train together and had the exact same dream: win in Aspen and take the honors of leading the high profile stage race in their own state. That’s about as good as it gets — especially for Reijnen who rides for a Pro Continental squad, not a powerhouse WorldTour team like Howes.
Howes tried to spring a surprise by jumping in front on the last right-hand corner but Reijnen easily came from behind to win by two bikes lengths. He raised his left arm in triumph as Howes smacked the top of his POC helmet in frustration. A study in contrast: delirious joy and devastating loss.
“When I looked back and saw Kiel there, I figured it was 50/50; when we’re training and sprint against each other, that’s how it usually comes out.,” said Howes.
Howes had just come off completing his first grand tour — the Tour de France — so he had the extra boost in confidence but not enough legs. “Honestly I had questions about myself, pretty much full-on since spring. It’s been a long season,” said Howes. “To be honest, mentally, I’m losing it. Physically it’s in there, it just takes a bit of digging.”
Unfortunately for Howes, Reijnen was able to dig deeper.
“We race a lot of important races, but for me, this is the most important race on my calendar.” said Reijnen. “Being a Colorado local, it’s hard to describe what it means to take this stage win and the leader’s jersey on Colorado soil in front of all these Colorado fans.”
In his best Mark Cavendish imitation, Reijnen was profuse in his praise of his UnitedHealthcare squad. “Every one of my teammates should be up here [on the podium],” said Reijnen. “They felt I really had a chance today. It was motivating for them and motivating for me. I owe this victory to them.”
The other race highlights included Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis-Hagens Berman) jumping away from the other six riders in his breakaway and grabbing the final King of the Mountains points. It was a gutsy move and the 35 year old vet went all in. He barely held off old man Jens Voigt who suddenly bridged up.
Voigt and Jacques-Maynes would both fade as Garmin-Sharp and BMC drove the chase. Voigt had his Shut Up Legs moment, a little “thanks for the memories” TV gig but did anyone really think he had a shot at the win?
Novo Nordisk’s Javier Megias also pulled a cheeky move with 3k to go on the road into Aspen. The Spaniard made it stick until Reijnen and Howes ripped past him. Ben Hermans (BMC) would take third but Megias held on for 6th as the rest of the group swarmed him.