Four riders from the Champion System Pro Cycling Team were part of the select finishing group on Monday's opening stage of the USA Pro Challenge.
An early 22-man attack, which included several race favorites, splintered the field for the majority of the 202.2 kilometer stage. Matthias Friedemann and Cameron Wurf assisted the BMC Racing Team and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Teams with the chase that pulled in the break three kilometers from the finish.
Chris Butler, Craig Lewis, Wurf and Gang Xu finished in the same time as the stage winner, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda), who secured the leader’s jersey in the sprint finish. As Asia’s first pro continental team, Xu’s results were a high point on the difficult stage.
"I'm really happy to see the way Gang Xu is riding,” Champion System General Manager Ed Beamon said. “He rode well from the beginning.”
Xu’s first race in the United States was the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah earlier this month. But the four-time Chinese national road champion said nothing compares to lining up with the likes of veteran, established cycling standouts such as Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans.
The Chinese rider said he hopes to keep improving as the week-long race continues.
"I started to get a feel for the race but every race is a challenge coming from China and learning the language and culture," Xu said.
Tuesday’s 159.3 km stage from Montrose to Crested Butte has a short, but potentially dramatic, uphill finish. With all four of Champion System's lead riders tied with the race leader on time overall, Assistant Director Chris Wherry said he has options going into the stage.
"Now that we have more definition in the team, we’d like to keep one of those four guys fresh,” he said.