Champion System Puts Two In Break; Finishes One In Main Group
Champion System Pro Cycling Team’s Chris Butler finished in a select 26-man front group, two seconds behind the solo stage winner Wednesday at the USA Pro Challenge while teammates Pengda Jiao and Matthias Friedemann made the early break on Stage 3.
The 210.1 kilometer "queen" stage featured more than 7,300 meters of climbing as the race wound from Gunnison to Aspen. Heading up the first of three climbs, a group of 18 riders escaped. Champion System's Jiao and Friedemann made this front group, which built a lead of more than three minutes. But the break began to splinter as it climbed up Cottonwood Pass. Friedemann was dropped early on, but Pengda crested the summit just a few hundred meters behind the leaders.
"Pengda was awesome," Champion System General Manager Ed Beamon said. "A group of 18 was quickly pared down to eight and he hung in there nearly all the way to the top with the elite riders."
On a dramatic descent into Aspen, the select group of 26 – including Champion System’s Butler – regrouped to pursue the remaining rider from the break, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp). Danielson survived to win the stage, but the chase crossed the line only two seconds later.
"I'm stoked that Chris had the ability to hang with that group and make it to the finish with the leaders," Assistant Director Chris Wherry said. "It shows he's got his climbing legs."
The overall leader’s jersey switched from Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) to Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp). Since both had the same overall time, Vande Velde was awarded the jersey based on tie-breaker criteria.
Thursday’s 156.6 km stage leaves Aspen and has the riders climbing back up Independence Pass before an uphill finish into Beaver Creek.