Patrick Gretsch of Germany leads the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge after the first day on Monday.
The 24-year-old Gretsch, a time trial specialist who rides for the California-based HTC-Highroad team, completed the 8.4km prologue stage in 8 minutes, 27.5 seconds. He was to wear the race leader’s jersey yesterday in the 159.8km Salida to Mount Crested Butte stage 1 road race.
“I put all of my focus into the TT [time trial],” said Gretsch, who earlier this season won the prologue of the Ster ZLM Toer in the Netherlands. “I am in really good shape now. The altitude was difficult, but I was best with it today.”
American Christian Vande Velde, a two-time Tour de France top-10 finisher who competes for Garmin-Cervelo, trailed Gretsch by 1.71 seconds in the field of 130 riders from 17 teams.
“My goal was not to end my season today,” said Vande Velde, who placed 17th overall last month in the Tour de France in which his squad won the team time trial and the team title. “It was a scary corner and it was very fast.”
Brent Bookwalter of the US was third, trailing the winner by 3.81 seconds.
Reigning Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC) of Australia placed ninth, about eight seconds behind the winner.
Gretsch, who last week finished third in the stage 3 individual time trial at the Tour of Utah, was the 41st rider on the course. With the exception of the final 10 riders who began with two-minute intervals, the majority of the field began in one-minute intervals.
“We trained on the course a lot,” Gretsch said of the technical prologue that provided his second career pro win. “I rode it maybe 10 times in practice, but I took the big corner a few miles slower today, but it was still a strong ride.”
The course featured a few sharp corners and one steep downhill in which riders exceeded 80kph.
“I was surprised today,” said Vande Velde, the 11th starter on the course. “It puts me in good position, but I was surprised to be on the podium. I was thinking for a better position in the Vail time trial [stage 3].”