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Reporting from Durango, Colorado, Sunday Aug. 19th

From Art and Gabriel Neibrief, Sonoma County residents who are following the USA Pro Challenge Bicycle Race:

 

We have had an exciting time getting to Durango, including stops to visit Lake Havasu, the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park, arriving here in Durango on the 17th.

We have come to Colorado to follow the USA Pro Challenge, now in its second year, which begins August 20th (Durango to Telluride) and ends with a time trial stage in Denver on August 26th. Sixteen teams are here to compete.

Our local hero, Levi Leipheimer won this race last year by 11 seconds over second place finisher Christian Vande Velde and 17 seconds ahead of third place finisher Tejay Van Garderen. All three were at the press conference we attended yesterday, along with several other great competitors. At the conference, Levi was asked about the broken leg injury he suffered in Spain in April, and how he felt at this time.

His answer: “Any injury is difficult to come back from, but I feel good.”

Tom Danilson of Team Garmin is a local favorite, and he attended Ft. Lewis College here in Durango. He said that training here helped him become a better climber.

Danilson suffered severe lacerations in a crash in this year’s Tour de France during Stage 6 and had to drop out of the race. When asked about his recovery, Tom said that “Levi was a big motivation for me. He had a broken leg in April and competed in the Tour of California in May. We are cyclists; we pick ourselves up. We are addicted to this.” Danilson is expected to do well in this race. He finished fourth in the race last year.

Tejay Van Garderen of Team BMC, which is based in Santa Rosa, said that losing the yellow jersey last year to Levi was emotional for him. During Q and A, Gabriel  asked Tejay, “are you in it to win it this year?” Tejay responded with a very firm, ”Definitely; I am totally here to win it.” In this year’s Tour de France, Tejay won the white jersey as Best Young Rider and finished fifth overall. He also won the Best Young Rider jersey in this race last year.

Tejay’s teammate Cadel Evans, an Australian won the Tour de France last year. However, Evans made it clear that he is here to support Tejay. Cadel began his career as a mountain bike racer, first visiting Durango in 1994 as a teenager. When asked about the altitude of racing in the Rocky Mountains, he said that “the idea is to minimize the suffering as much as possible.”

BMC teammate George Hincapie, who finished fifth in this race last year will support Tejay. ”Big George” has participated in 17 Tour de France races and has supported nine TDF winners during that time. George is known and admired in the pro cycling community as a “super domestique.” This USA Pro Challenge is George’s last professional race.

Taylor Phinney, also of BMC, is 22 years old and a great time trialist. He had two, fourth place finishes during this year’s Olympics, and talked about the frustration of almost getting a medal. He is from Boulder, Colorado and is another great asset in this race for Team BMC.

Vincenzo Nibali of Team Liquigas, who spoke through an interpreter, spoke of his enjoyment of racing in Colorade. He is expected to finish at or near the top in Colorado this week. Vincenzo won third place at this year’s Tour de France.

Jens Voigt of Team Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek, now age 40, was asked about retirement. His response, “Retirement is not in my vocabulary.” He also said that he likes coming to Colorado because “the shopping is good for my children…” Jens is the father of six.

On Sunday, Gabriel and I participated in a 45 mile ride which covered the beginning of Stage One, 125 miles from Durango to Telluride. During a climb, I jammed on the pedals and kept up with Voigt’s teammate Chris Horner for about one minute. Seeing this, Jen’s blew past both of us on the climb. Chris turned to me and said, “he always does that.” I then dropped back and let my heartrate go down a bit.

Gabriel and I will follow the race to its conclusion in Denver on August 26th, and we will be sending in updates during the week. Race coverage is broadcast on NBC Sports Network.

- From Art and Gabriel Neibrief

 

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