Aug 18, 2015 – Not many professional cycling races can claim to have mountain top finishes at almost 11,000 feet and it took a powerhouse team of riders that included American Brent Bookwalter and Australian Rohan Dennis to beat out the rest of the field at Tuesday’s 115.4-mile ride from Steamboat Springs to Arapahoe Basin at the USA Pro Challenge.

USA Pro Challenge/Meg McMahon

Bookwalter escaped from the top contenders within the final 500 meters to defeat teammate Dennis by six seconds and Britain’s Hugh McCarthy of team Caja Rural-Seguros by 10 seconds, to claim the stage victory and take over the Smashburger leader’s jersey.

“I didn’t realize I had won the race until someone from my team told me,” said Bookwalter. “I was so cross-eyed (from the altitude and effort) that I wasn’t quite sure where I was for awhile. I just powered ahead.”

The win was the biggest of Bookwalter’s 10-year professional career. A long-time domestique for BMC Racing, the past month has seen the 31-year-old from Asheville, N.C. finish 4th overall at Tour of Austria and 3rd overall at Tour of Utah.

“We still have five days to go, and a lot of tough kilometers,” he added. “It’s not time to celebrate. Cannondale-Garmin seems pretty motivated and there are some other individuals to watch…it’s good to keep the jersey in the team.”

Bookwalter took the leader’s jersey from teammate Taylor Phinney, who won yesterday’s stage in Steamboat Springs. Dennis’s second place leaves him second overall, placing BMC Racing in an ideal position to win the race.

“We have at least two bullets in our holster to play,” Dennis said, using cycling vernacular for having multiple options. “Brent is riding real well right now. And, I’m not bad either. We’ll take it one day at a time. I thought the altitude wasn’t as much of a factor to me as I thought it would be.”

The large crowds up the slopes on Highway 6 from Keystone to Arapahoe Basin were packed in the final kilometer, which Dennis said actually slowed the chase group down. Nathan Brown of the Cannondale-Garmin team had escaped with fellow American Gregory Daniel with about 20 miles to go. Brown eventually left Daniel on the final climb up to A-Basin but was caught with about 800 meters remaining by Bookwalter, Dennis, McCarthy and several others.

The final 500 meters splintered the field as the top 20 riders were spread out within a minute of each other, creating various time gaps.

Those who lost time will have ample opportunity to make up seconds and even minutes on the next three stages. Wednesday’s Stage 3 from Copper Mountain to Aspen features the goliath climb of almost 18 miles over Independence Pass. The pass, used in several past courses, crests at 12,095, the highest point of this year’s course and one of the highest paved roads in all of North America. Most of the day is spent above 10,000 feet and will test even the best rider’s lungs. The crowds along Independence Pass in prior race years have been some of the biggest and most enthusiastic. Expect to see a wide variety of characters dressed in costumes and ringing multiple cow bells.

For the jerseys, Brent Bookwalter (USA) of BMC Racing Team takes the Smashburger Race Leader Jersey. While Taylor Phinney (USA) of BMC Racing Team got his hands on the Lexus Sprint Points Jersey and Will Routley (CAN) of Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies takes home the Sierra Nevada King of the Mountain Jersey. The Colorado State University Best Young Rider Jersey is Hugh Carthy (GBR) of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA. Today’s FirstBank Most Aggressive Rider Jersey was awarded to Nathan Brown (USA) of Team Cannondale-Garmin and Edward Jones Best Colorado Rider Jersey finds a home with Alexandr Braico (MDA) of Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis.

Final kilometer’s of Stage 2

Stage 2 Results & GC Standings
-First – Brent Bookwalter (USA) of BMC Racing Team
-Second – Rohan Dennis (AUS) of BMC Racing Team
-Third – Hugh Carthy (GBR) of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA

Jersey Winners
-Smashburger Leader Jersey – Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
-Lexus Sprint Jersey – Taylor Phinney (USA) of BMC Racing Team
-Sierra Nevada King of the Mountains Jersey – Will Routley (CAN) of Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies
-Colorado State University Best Young Rider Jersey – Hugh Carthy (GBR) of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
-FirstBank Most Aggressive Rider Jersey – Nathan Brown (USA) of Team Cannondale-Garmin
-Edward Jones Best Colorado Rider Jersey – Alexandr Braico (MDA) of Jelly Belly P/B Maxxis

Wednesday, Aug. 19 – Copper Mountain to Aspen
Start Time: 11:15 a.m. MT
Estimated Finish Time: 3:20 p.m. MT
Satellite Feed Time: 5 p.m. – 5:15 p.m MT / 7 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. EST

Another new twist on an old favorite, but this time it is the opening that changes. Copper Mountain plays host to its first ever Pro Challenge stage and sends off Stage 3 in style. While familiar terrain and faces await the race on Independence Pass and Aspen.

No rest for the weary this day as the climbing starts right away with the ascent of Freemont Pass. Then onto the gorgeous shores of Turquoise Lake and a quick sprint through Leadville. But that is just the appetizer, the main course awaits on the upper slopes of Independence Pass and then down its breathtaking descent into Aspen where some of the most memorable moments in Pro Challenge history have played out.
PS- Over half of Stage 3 race mileage takes place above 10,000’. Bring your lungs.